DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES – Every year in March, members of Los Angeles’ Persian community fill the Council Chambers in City Hall to celebrate Norooz, the Persian New Year. After the ceremony, which traditionally involves top local political and business leaders of all backgrounds and ethnicities, the crowds move to the lawn on Spring Street for a feast.
This year, some things are the same, but others are markedly different: The ceremony will take place on Friday, March 19, at 10 a.m., and the haft sin, seven types of food that each start with the letter S and have symbolic meaning, will be displayed. A short tea reception will follow in the rotunda.
But instead of serving lunch, organizers will take the money they would have spent and instead use it to provide 2,500 meals for the homeless at the Midnight Mission in Skid Row. It will work out to more than $5,000, said Hamid Behdad, president of the board of the Norooz Celebration Foundation, which organizes the annual event.
“It’s just not right to spend that money for a lunch [at City Hall] which is not a necessary item,” said Behdad, who also heads the Downtown-based development firm the Central City Development Group. “We feel it would be better spent to give the meal to those who are in need.”
The Norooz celebration has become a point of pride in Los Angeles’ sizable Persian population. Behdad explained that it is something Persians of all religions — whether Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Zoroastrian, Baha’i or something else — all share.
“This is the one single event in the entire 3,000 year history of the Persian empire that has nothing to do with one’s religion,” he said.
Norooz technically occurs at the time of the Spring equinox. It marks the celebration of the new year for the worldwide Persian community. Norooz officially arrives March 20 this year.
Sixth District Councilman Tony Cardenas is the Council sponsor of the event.