On March 18, as the students headed out for the long-awaited spring break, the alumni hall was overflowing with conversation and festive smiles as guests began to take their seats at banquet tables for the Taste of Nowruz festival in the city. Association of Iranian Students. Iranian pop music played through the loudspeakers, prompting some attendees to move to the beat of their travels.
Officers from the Iranian Students’ Association enthusiastically welcomed new and old guests, ushering them into the banquet hall; delighted greetings rang out in Farsi, adding musical chatter that warmed the room even though it was raining outside.
At the start of the Taste of Nowruz, President Parisa Keshavarz-Joud took to the podium to introduce the history and traditions of Nowruz. Nowruz – which means “new day” – is a festival celebrating the vernal equinox, which is also the start of the Persian calendar.
The festival represents a time of joy, togetherness and hope for the coming year for those who celebrate. For many Persian attendees in the room, it was their first public Nowruz celebration since the pandemic began, signifying a year of new beginnings and a redefined sense of togetherness.
“My favorite part of this event is seeing the amount of diversity we have here. Seeing so many people from different cultures and backgrounds come together and being able to share Iranian culture with them has been very rewarding,” said Keshavarz- Joud As president of the Iranian Students Association, Keshavarz-Joud’s favorite part of handling events was being able to reconnect Iranian students with each other, helping to create a sense of community even during the pandemic. After the presentation, the graduating students walked past the hall to play a set of traditional Persian music.
The graduating students sang in harmony and were accompanied by students playing traditional Persian instruments such as the rud and tar. “The lovebird chanting its tunes, adorning the banquet of meadows and dunes,” sang the room in Farsi, celebrating the fortune of spring. The guests swayed to the traditional music, carried by the melody.
As the traditional music drew to a close and the musicians sang their last lines, the banquet hall rang with applause, with smiling guests once again pouring in. A few guests made their way to the delicately laid table that adorned the front of the room.
The haftseen chart depicts the “seven S’s”, which are seven elements beginning with the letter S in their Farsi names, with each element representing positive hope for the new year. Some items commonly laid out on haftseen tables include serkeh (vinegar), representing age and patience; seeb (apple), representing beauty; and sabzeh (sprouts), representing rebirth and growth.
“As a child, it was really nice to gather around my family when we were all together. It meant a lot to go to the shops for Nowrooz because all the shops and all the streets are full of Nowruz items. I remember really enjoying walking and shopping with my mom, and setting the haftseen table with her,” Keshavarz-Joud described.
During Nowruz, the haftseen table brings the family together in preparation for spring, while celebrating gratitude for one another. The Nowruz event featured a plethora of traditional Persian dishes for dinner.
The guests quickly piled into a line that stretched all around the room. The dinner included Persian rice with saffron, yogurt and marinated meat dishes, which the guests enthusiastically enjoyed. Friends gathered and discussed the event while eating at the banquet tables.
“It’s the first time I’ve heard of Nowruz, and the food is really good! Today I learned that Nowrooz is a collection of really interesting New Year activities; I was really surprised that people from my hometown in India also celebrate Nowruz,” said second-year ID Kruti Maheshwari.
As the rain cleared outside and sunlight filtered through the room’s windows, guests beamed with laughter and smiles, ready to welcome the New Year together, regardless of background or belief. The celebration of Nowruz reminded us that even in difficult times, we can all be convinced that unity is a source of hope and strength.