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New Year

My Norooz is your Norooz
Writing journey to Iran with chip on shoulder


March 20, 2006 

Every year, I promise to be more organized with my Norooz preparations for the following year; and every year as the vernal equinox approaches, left with a long list to do, I’m convinced they must have the date wrong.

When we lived in the Midwest, a scarcity of local Persian stores and the cold weather provided sufficient reasons for such procrastination. “It doesn’t feel like spring yet!” Now living in sunny California, where Iranian stores even make the samanoo and grow the sabzeh for you, I’m fresh out of excuses. No matter how early I begin to prepare, the day before Norooz I’m running around with a mile-long list of last minute errands.

This year, we started our khaneh-takani way back in January, right after the Christmas tree lay on the sidewalk and we had put the box of ornaments back in the attic. I called someone to wash the hallway carpeting, had the kitchen painted, polished the silverware and washed the curtains.

As I started to get rid of useless items, the amount of junk we had collected in one year horrified me; in fact we had a pile of Dream Home magazines and we’re not even into real estate. Boxes and boxes of clothes and household items were discarded, books were rearranged on the shelves to make them look less neglected and DVD’s and CD’s were reunited with their lost jackets, and that was only January!

Early in March, I bought so much wheat-berries that I could have grown enough sabzeh to run my own juice bar. And, thank God for grownup kids who are able to buy their own outfits because the department stores sure have no clue what kind of clothes we need for this occasion.  As for me, I settle for a pair of new shoes and refuse to be reminded that I may be yet another size up.

I love going to the local Persian stores at this time of the year; not only do they have an abundance of cookies and supplies, the personnel acts happier and their welcome feels warmer than usual. They all display a haft seen table at the entrance and often ta’arof and insist that shoppers sample the goodies as if to convey a message, “We’re in this thing together!” As the seasonal Persian music blasts through the speakers, Pouran sings gol-oomad-bahar oomad, and I feel every single word with all my heart.

I buy more than what we need and bake enough baklava to feed an army. The hyacinth flower is always a problem since there’s an abundance of it in February, but come March they are all gone. The goldfish is another problem. Year after year, I wake up in the morning and walk over to our haft seen only to find one of the unfortunate creatures floating on top of murky water. By now, this has happened so often that all I do is discard it and rush out to buy another one before the kids find out.

My last minute stop is always at the local bank, which fails to obtain crisp new money we can offer for the kid’s Aidee. Regardless of the number of Iranians in our town, who year after year ask their bank for it, the banks have yet to wise up, or could it be that they, too, expect some kind of Aidee before giving such service?

I stop at the La Jolla Public Library to return a book and notice a lovely display of Haft seen and know this is not the only place that has come to know us and acknowledge our ancient tradition. The cultural display is everywhere as many museums, libraries and schools are happy to celebrate this glorious event and nature’s “New Day.”

Walking back to my car, a lady asks me, “Are you Persian?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Happy Norooz to you!” she says.

I stare at her in total shock. “And to you!” I say and give her such a broad smile, it makes my cheeks hurt.

Ready or not, I suddenly feel my work is done. This is indeed a good day and I know it’s going to be an even better year. A total stranger has just wished me a happy Norooz. What more can I ask for? It took each and every one of us decades of hard work to do this, but the world finally got it; mission accomplished!

Driving home, I tune to Radio Iran and am overjoyed to find that the tedious sessions of psychoanalysis have given way to lively music. I sing along and, in the spirit of holiday, decide to stop for pedestrians to cross. I am fighting the urge to roll down my window and shout, “Happy Norooz everyone!”

Zohreh Khazai Ghahremani is a retired dentist and a freelance writer. She lives in San Diego, California. Her latest book is "Sharik-e Gham" (see excerpt). Visit her site

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