Probably one of the more well-known of the Iranian celebrations by Westerners, aside from Nowruz, Chaharshanbe Soori is the unique celebration of unknown origins that leads up to the marking of the new year. This festival is celebrated in a few different ways today, all of which still include jumping over a huge fire! Iranians have been holding these ceremonies for as long as anybody remembers, however the origins of where they came from is unknown. Come along with goingIRAN to learn and discover more about this festivity!
Translating to ‘Celebration of Wednesday’ it the most recognized activity of festivity is the lighting of a big bon fire. When dusk falls these big fires are erected in yards and the streets, as people start to come out and gather. It is a happy time of hanging out and social mingling among neighbors and friends. Once it is dark and the fires have become big enough, one by one people take a running start and jump over them! As they leap over the glowing fire, they say ‘Let my yellowness be yours and your redness be mine’. That’s why this day is also called Chaharshanbeye Sorkh in Persian, or ‘Red Wednesday’.
As it involves fire, many assume that this event has its roots set in Zoroastrian traditions. However it is quite the contrary, as in the Zoroastrian faith fire is understood as holy and therefore jumping over (defying it) would be bad practice. It is not all to say that this practice has a negative connotation to it. In this event, the symbolism behind jumping over the fire is one of purification. In the saying ‘Let my yellowness be yours and your redness be mine’ yellowness is representation of illnesses and weaknesses while redness shows health, fruition and strength. Nowadays, by jumping over the fire three times while saying this chant is known as a tradition of purifying ones soul before upcoming spring new year.
Until about a decade ago, another highly prevalent tradition on this night was Ghashogh Zani. In Persian this means ‘Beating of the spoons’. This was a tradition where young and old participated as they walked around the dimly fire-lit neighborhood. Covering their faces and bodies with long cloths they would go from door to door banging spoons on their pots of bowls. They would knock on the doors of houses and be greeted by the home owner and given candy or a traditional mix of nuts and berries called Ajeel. Legend has it that on the last Wednesday before the New Year, households would be visited by haunting spirits. The eerily melodic clanking made by the many banging of spoons against various pots and bowls all around the neighborhood was believed to ward off the spirits. As a token of appreciation, the neighboring homes would give out their blessings and candy. As you may have already noticed this is a variation of concept of the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, better known as Halloween!
Although you can still catch Ghashogh Zani happening in Iran, it has unfortunately been taken over by an extremely excessive lighting of fireworks and firecrackers by the youth. If you’re in Iran around this time and want to check out or even participate in this wonderful tradition, ask around for people who know of neighborhoods that still celebrate in the traditional ways.
Hint: You’ll have a very hard time finding such a neighborhood in Tehran!
Date/Time: Last Tuesday evening of every Persian calendar year. (14 March 2017)
Location: On the street in Iran
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