London Nouruz Charshanbeh Suri




The joy of living in such a multi-cultural metropolis, is that there is always a party going on somewhere. Now you might have thought that it was enough already that this week starts with Guinness and St. Patrick and ends up with that mega-choc-fest, Easter…. but arguably the most interesting knees-up this week is the Persian New Year Festivities: Nowrooz. And as there are something like 40,000 ex-pat Iranians living in London (most of them dentists or pizza parlour owners), that means that there is actually quite a lot going on (even though the mayor hasn’t yet turned it into yet another public Kenfest in Trafalgar Square).

The festival comprises three parts. The first, Chaharshanbeh Suri, is great fun, as it is positively pagan (well, OK, Zoroastrian) in origin and consists of having a party and jumping over fire. Literally ‘red Wednesday’, it is confusingly held on the last Tuesday of the year (this year, the 18th of March). In London there are several organised Persian bonfire parties (the fire brigade are asked along), the most famous being at Alexander Palace, but if you see your otherwise ‘normal’ neighbours leaping over little fires in their back garden and chanting, you will know that they are indeed Iranian. There are also a few ultra-over-dressed club nights around town: Londonist is intrigued by the prospect of Royal Persian Nights at the Roof Garden in Kensington (that well known Iranian stomping ground).


Then there’s the New Year itself, which is timed to the second and is in fact the vernal equinox. This year it is at a very unfestive 05.48am (Londonist time) on the 20th March. In Iran this is followed by two weeks of holiday and general abstemious merry making. In London it entails concerts: the open-shirted young men and ravishing divas that comprise the Persian pop scene in effect divide themselves between Tehrangeles and London, and put on an impressive show with an unfeasibly large billing at unfeasibly high ticket prices. This year there is one at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, but Londonist is really tickled by one at Area on the Albert Embankment on the 20th March: this is to feature four DJs from Iran, which is something rather special. Tickets are £30.00: call 07931 386033 for more details.

And then there’s Seezdahbehdah, the thirteenth day after the New Year, when Iranians will take wheat grass and sprouts which they have grown, tie knots in them, make a wish and throw them in running water. So if you see lots of batty Middle Eastern types lobbing grass into the Thames, you’ll know why. It is also a day when Iranians leave the house and picnic, and traditionally in London, this means Hyde Park.

Anyway, that’s it: the Londonist lowdown. Have a happy and prosperous 1387.

Main picture of the Haft Sin from Jovika’s flickr stream. Fire jumpers from Fatemeh’s Gastronomie’s flickr stream.


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