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Originally published in Marco Polo Arts Mag

Noruz Celebrations*

I remember mom wanting everything perfect on that day. Tradition says: whatever state you are in at the moment of vernal equinox, you’ll stay in for a full year. I hoped the Iraqis wouldn’t bomb us at that moment.

I remember spring-cleaning.

I remember mother’s enthusiasm as she’d start growing grassy green wheat or coiling vert lentil sprouts ten days before Noruz (new day), the Persian New Year, that first day of spring.

I remember asking mom to call me when she was ready to bake her chickpea cookies, delicate florets with a little barrette of pistachio in their center. They’d quietly crumble in your mouth. You could eat four or five at a time.

I remember cutting the pistachios into slivers, promising mom not to hurt myself.

I remember the aroma of butter, cardamom, rosewater and honey rising in an embrace with mother’s love to fill the kitchen like Rumi’s poetry. When you walked out of the kitchen, the waft of sweets gave way to the perfume of hyacinths.
I remember the Haft-Seen, a spread of seven items that start with “s,” signifying Zoroastrian divinities.Seeb (apple) symbolized beauty; sir (garlic), health; sabzee (sprouts), birth; sumac, sunrise; serkeh(vinegar), age or patience; samanoo (wheat germ pudding), affluence; senjed (oleaster tree fruit), love. Coins, gold fish, colored eggs, a mirror, the Quran plus Hafez poems adorned the table too.

I remember our yard a mélange of scented colors: the showering amethyst of wisterias, the heaven-pointing lilacs, roses bursting pink and red, pansies playful in orange, yellow, or maroon, the pool sparkling blue.

I remember wearing at least one new article of clothing. Something I still do on Noruz here in the States.

I remember the house so clean it felt more spacious.

I remember my brothers and I watching television while waiting for the celebrations. They always played Robin Hood, a censured version after the revolution of course, but still it was Disney.

I remember the commotion minutes before the equinox.

At last, I remember we’d gather around the Haft-Seen as the New Year Prayer commenced. Oh Lord, transformer of hearts and eyes, alterer of day and night, bestow upon us a most formidable fate. Tic, tac, tic, tac, boom. Voice of music, music of voices burst amidst hugs and kisses.

I remember dad taking out envelopes from inside the Quran with our names on them. He always gave us brand new, crisp bills for eidee (present). To me, his eldest, he gave the most.

I remember looking forward to family visits. They meant more sweets, more eidee.

I remember grandfather greeting us in his pinstriped suit, kissing our foreheads before handing out money from his prayer book. It always smelled of jasmines because he kept jasmines in his book.

I remember the festivities ending on day thirteen. We’d leave the house to throw the sabzee, ill from gathering our bad faith, into running water while making a wish. We made a picnic of it and wished the war away.

*An homage to Joe Brainard