For many of us, spring is that wonderful time of year where birds chirp beautifully, flowers bloom gracefully and our allergies sneak up on us instantaneously. For the Iranian community, spring is the start to a new beginning.
The Office of Intercultural Relations (OIR) and the Persian Students International Association, also known as PERSIA, hosted the celebration of Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, on March 28 at the Ted Constant Convocation Center.
Friends, family and Old Dominion University students gathered together for an evening filled with traditional Persian entertainment and authentic cuisine, while relishing in the company of their loved ones in celebration of the first day that marks the Spring Equinox on the Iranian calendar.
The event began with a two video clips that first explained the audience a brief history of Nowruz, and after showed the immense scenic beauty of Iran.
The night continued with performances by Elias Yasdan Shenas, who played traditional Iranian music, and Chelydra, who performed three specific Persian styles of dance. Folks cheered, clapped their hands and tapped their toes in time with the music.
Nowruz, pronounced “No-Rooz,” literally translates into “New Day” and has many variations of the spelling, such as Noroz, Norouz and Norooze. It has been celebrated for over 3,000 years, not only in Iran, but also in India and countries located in central Asia and the Middle East.
Nowruz is an extremely important national holiday and preparation can begin weeks in advance. The excitement begins with Haji Firuz, a man dressed in a traditional red outfit and a face painted black to represent soot, who dances and sings with excitement around town to exclaim the coming of Nowruz.
Afshin Sedighian, vice president of PERSIA, dressed up as the character Haji Firuz for the celebration. He jokingly laughed that his dancing skills that are “not good,” but exclaimed that it is supposed to be funny, and his purpose is to make people laugh.
Sedighian explained that when people see Haji Firuz, they know it’s time to cleanse and prepare for a fresh new year.
“It’s the time to clean the house, and renew everything because it’s spring…it’s the birth of nature.”
Sedighian is one of the co-founders of PERSIA that welcomes students from different countries and backgrounds to learn about and gain a mutual understanding and respect for the Persian history, heritage and culture.
Sedighian moved to the United States from Iran at 16-years-old to further his education and experience American culture.
“There is so much beauty about it [the American culture] and…you can see diversity, even in [a] college campus, in ODU, you can see…people coming from all over the world,” he said.
The organization was founded in September 2011, starting out with only a handful of Iranian members. It now has over thirty, comprising of mostly graduate students in pursuit of attaining their master’s degree or Ph.D. With his satisfaction with ODU and his fascination with the blending of cultures, Sedighian hopes to gradually increase the number of members over time.
By Veronica Singer