I neglected to mention this holiday yesterday, but in my defense it’s hard to think about the coming of Spring when we just got hit with 8 inches of snow a couple of days ago and there’s more on tap for next week.
Anyway, the eve of the last Wednesday before the Iranian New Year, Nowruz (نوروز), is a fun little pre-Islamic Iranian holiday called چهارشنبه سوری (chahārshanbah sūrī, pronounced “cha-haar-sham-beh-soo-ree”), from چهارشنبه (chahārshanbah) or “Wednesday” (in this case it’s Wednesday eve, but that’s traditionally considered Wednesday), and سوری (sūrī), which can mean “banquet” but here takes its secondary meaning, “red,” a shortening of the Persian word سُرخ (surkh, “sorkh”) or “red.”
The holiday features fire-jumping (told you it was fun), hearkening back to Zoroastrian times when fire was a sacred object of worship. Bonfires are lit, fireworks set off, and Iranians leap over the fires while saying زَردِ مَن از تو سُرخِ تو از مَن (zard-i man az tū surkh-i tū az man, “zard-eh-man-az-toh-sorkh-eh-toh-az-man”), which means “my yellow for you, your red for me.” The invocation is meant to throw the speaker’s “yellows”–illness or whatever else is troubling them–into the fire, and draw the fire’s “red”–its health, vigor, vitality, power–out to them.
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