Chaharshanbe Suri

A Night of Flames: How Iran’s Fire Festival Prepares for Nowruz

Chaharshanbe Suri (Persian: چهارشنبه‌سوری‎) is an ancient Iranian festival celebrated on the eve of the last Wednesday before Nowruz (the Iranian New Year, marking the first day of spring). The event dates back at least to 1700 BCE, during the early Zoroastrian era. It is a fire festival, symbolizing the victory of light and goodness over darkness and evil. Participants engage in various customs such as jumping over bonfires, lighting fireworks, and the practice of Qashoq Zani – knocking on doors and receiving treats. The saying associated with jumping over the fire is “زردی من از تو، سرخی تو از من”, translating to “My yellow is yours, your red is mine”, reflecting the desire to shed ills and embrace warmth and energy. Chaharshanbe Suri serves both as a cultural and a social event, bringing communities together to celebrate heritage and the coming of spring.

Key Traditions of Chaharshanbe Suri

Smashing the Pot (Kūza-šekanī) This tradition involves filling a pot with symbolic items such as charcoal, salt, and coins to transfer misfortune from individuals to the pot. The pot is then smashed, usually from a rooftop, to ward off evil spirits and bad luck, with variations seen across regions like Tehran, Khorasan, and Arāk.

Fortune Telling (Fāl) Fortune telling on Chaharshanbe Suri is traditionally done by placing personal ornaments into a jug along with slips of paper inscribed with fortunes or verses from the Divan of Hafez. A child then draws these items to reveal participants’ fortunes, a practice popular across various parts of Iran.

Burning Rue (Esfand) Burning rue seeds or frankincense is a widespread practice during Chaharshanbe Suri to protect against the evil eye and malevolent spirits. Participants often recite rhymes while throwing rue and salt into the fire, a custom rooted in ancient spiritual beliefs.

Dropping the Sash (Šāl-andāzī)

A tradition where a young man drops a sash or rope into a girl’s home to discover his marital chances based on what is returned in the basket. It’s a practice mainly found in northern regions of Iran, serving as a method of fortune telling or seeking familial approval for marriage.

Best Food for Chaharshanbe Suri

Ajeel e Chaharshanbe Suri

A special mix of nuts and dried fruits believed to make wishes come true when eaten on Chaharshanbe Suri. It typically includes pistachios, almonds, chickpeas, and raisins, embodying the festival’s spirit of joy and festivity.

Sabzi Polo with Fish

A popular dish in regions like Māzandarān, Gīlān, and Tehran, this meal consists of herbed rice served with fish, symbolizing the coming of the New Year and the renewal of nature in spring.

Polo with Pasta Soup

In Kermān and Shirāz, a traditional supper includes polow (rice) served with a soup containing long strands of pasta, symbolizing wishes for a long life for family members.

Various Kinds of Polow

In Khorasan, diverse types of polow, including those made with lentils, pasta, herbs, and vetch, are customary, reflecting the rich culinary traditions associated with Chaharshanbe Suri.

Other Relevant Tips for Observance

  • Preparation for Fire Jumping: Ensure safety by choosing an open, clear area away from flammable materials and having water or a fire extinguisher nearby.
  • Choosing Eco-friendly Options: Consider using eco-friendly materials for bonfires and avoid excessive use of fireworks to minimize environmental impact.
  • Community Participation: Engage in community events or organize group celebrations to foster a sense of belonging and shared cultural heritage.
  • Respect for Traditions: While participating, respect the cultural and historical significance of the traditions, understanding their roots in Zoroastrianism and Persian culture.
  • Educational Aspect: Use the opportunity to educate younger generations about the significance of Chaharshanbe Suri, including its history, traditions, and customs.

Featured image: wikimedia

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