On March 18, as students were leaving for a long awaited spring break, the Alumni Hall was brimming with conversation and festive smiles as guests began to seat themselves at banquet tables for the Iranian Student’s Association’s Taste of Nowruz festival. Iranian pop music streamed through the speakers, inspiring some attendees to move to the beat as they milled about.
Iranian Student Association officers excitedly welcomed guests new and old, ushering them into the banquet room; overjoyed greetings rang out in Farsi, adding a musical chatter that warmed the room even as it drizzled outside.
As the Taste of Nowruz commenced, president Parisa Keshavarz-Joud stepped up to the podium in order to present the history and traditions of Nowruz. Nowruz — meaning “new day” — is a festival celebrating the spring equinox, which is also the beginning 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, this was their first public Nowruz celebration since the pandemic began, signifying a year of new beginnings and a redefined sense of unity.
“My favorite part of this event is seeing the amount of diversity that we have here. Seeing so many people from different cultures and different backgrounds come together and being able to share Iranian culture with them was very fulfilling,” said Keshavarz-Joud. As the president of Iranian Student Association, Keshavarz-Joud’s favorite part of running events was being able to reconnect Iranian students to each other, helping build a sense of community even during the pandemic.After the presentation, graduate students stepped up to the front of the room to play a set of traditional Persian music.
The graduate 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. Guests swayed along to the traditional music, carried by the melody.
As the traditional music came to a close and the musicians sang their last lines, the banquet hall rang out in applause, with grinning guests milling about once more. Some guests made their way to observe the delicately laid haftseen table adorning the front of the room.
The haftseen table represents the “seven S’s,” which are seven items starting with the letter S in their Farsi names, with each item representing a 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 kid, it was really nice to gather around my family when we were all together. It meant a lot going to shops for Nowrooz because all of the stores and all of the streets are filled with Nowruz items. I remember really enjoying walking around and shopping with my mom, and preparing the haftseen table with her,” described Keshavarz-Joud.
During Nowruz, the haftseen table brings the family together in preparation of spring, while also celebrating a gratitude for each other. The Nowruz event featured a plethora of traditional Persian dishes for dinner.
Guests quickly piled up in a line which stretched all the way around the room. Dinner included Persian rice with saffron, yogurt, and marinated meat dishes, which guests enjoyed with gusto. Friends gathered and chatted together about the event as they ate at the banquet tables.
“This is my first time hearing about Nowruz, and the food is really good! Today I learned that Nowrooz is a collection of really interesting New Years’ Activities; I was really surprised that people in the hometown in India that I’m from celebrate Nowruz as well,” said Kruti Maheshwari, second-year ID.
As the rain cleared outside and sunlight filtered into the windows of the hall, guests beamed with laughter and smiles, ready to welcome the new year together, regardless of their backgrounds or beliefs. The Nowruz celebration was a reminder that even in hard times, we can all take soace in the fact that there is hope and strength in unity.