Recently, I've come across several articles and photo essays about the various events surrounding Norooz and Sizdah Bedar. I've also received emails from patriotic Iranians showing the desire to promote and teach our fellow Americans a thing or two about the rich Iranian culture.
First thing is first. Before we teach others about our culture we should expand our horizons and learn it ourselves.
What does culture (Farhang) mean? The pre-1960 Webster's dictionary defines culture as: “1. The cultivation of soil. 2. The raising, improvement, or development of some plant, animal or product”. Over time the definition changed and the Oxford English Dictionary defined culture to mean “the training, development, and refinement of mind, tastes, and manners”.
Today, the more modern sources define culture to mean “patterns of human activity and the symbolic structures that give such activity significance”. Culture denotes whole product of an individual, group or society of intelligent beings. It includes technology, art, science, as well as moral systems and the characteristic behaviors and habits of the selected intelligent entities.
With the term “culture” being so multi-faceted why is it then that we Iranians today seem to define our culture in merely three terms “chelo-kabab”, “con-cert” (recently modified to “gala”) and “raghs”. Is our “culture” so limited? Clearly, the answer is no. However, our understanding and knowledge of it seems to be very limited. We don't want to bother actually picking up a book and reading 300 pages on our history, or read our poetry (in English or in Farsi), read books written by Iranian authors, or listen to classic Persian music.
Did you know that “chelo-kabab” was merely a food served at “carvansaras” to travelers going from city to another. I frankly can't understand the Iranian obsession with kababs. We have a rich selection of Iranian dishes. Why don't we learn how to make our cuisine instead?
Iranians traditionally celebrate Norooz at home with family, similar to American Christians or Jews celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah at home. They don't rush to galas held in fancy hotels to celebrate such family based occasion with 500 strangers leaving their children at home with a babysitter; or dragging them there to sleep in a corner. Also, Sizdah Bedar was intended as an outing with extended family; not a concert in the park.
What can I say about today's “raghs” performances but to say it is not an art and incomparable to tap dancing, ballroom dancing, ballet or the like. The pictures say it all.
The idea of cultivating culture at all levels of society begins at home. So instead of buying the concert tickets and paying for other such costs, we should invest in ourselves and our children's future and buy a book on Iranian history, Iranian cooking, books by Iranian authors, art work by Iranian artists, and Iranian classic music. Yes, it does take effort on our part.
If we can't express our culture beyond “chelo-kabab” “con-cert” and “raghs”, then we have to seriously consider what it is we define as the Iranian culture which we want to teach others and more importantly our children.