Chaharshanbe Suri is an Iranian festival celebrated on the eve of the last Wednesday before Nowruz.
سه شنبه، ۲۲ اسفند ۱۴۰۲
Tuesday, March 12, 2024
The Festival of Fire (Chaharshanbe Suri) holds on the Last Wednesday of a year (which marks the arrival of spring). People hope for health and happiness through the coming year by lighting fires and embracing the light. Iran, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Tajikestan, and Turkey celebrate this ancient festival, dating back to at least 1700 BCE. Iranians celebrate an old tradition known as “Chahar Shanbeh Suri.”
It occurs on the last Tuesday evening of every Persian calendar year. Iranians gather with friends and family to celebrate and enjoy this occasion. Chahar Shanbeh Suri, or the “Festival of Fire,” serves as a prelude to Nowruz, which signifies the arrival of the spring season.
The celebration of Chahar Shanbeh Suri usually begins in the evening, with people creating bonfires in the streets and leaping over them. Some believe that jumping over bonfires is a way to eliminate negative energy, sickness, and problems and to receive fulfillment, warmth, and energy in return. Chaharshanbe Suri serves as a cultural festival for many Iranians.
Chaharshanbe Suri Traditions
Jumping over the fire
During the Chaharshanbe Suri festival in Iran, people practice an ancient tradition of jumping over the fire. The festival, occurring on the last Wednesday before the Persian New Year, brings Iranians together to celebrate the arrival of spring and the rejuvenation of nature. The act of jumping over the fire holds a significant role in the festival as it is believed to bring good luck and protect against evil spirits.
The act of jumping over the fire during the Chaharshanbe Suri festival in Iran is known as “Chaharshanbe Soori” in Persian, meaning “Red Wednesday.” It is believed that the flames of the fire symbolize the burning away of misfortunes from the previous year and the purification of the soul. This tradition represents a leap from darkness to light, from winter to spring.
Preparations for Chaharshanbe Suri start days before the festival, with people gathering firewood, preparing firecrackers and fireworks, and making special foods for the occasion. On the festival night, families and friends gather to light bonfires in their backyards or public parks. The fires are adorned with colorful ribbons and decorations, and people dance around them while singing traditional songs.
Jumping over the fire is a tradition observed by people of all ages. Before leaping, individuals recite the phrase “Sorkhi-ye to az man, zardi-ye man az to,” meaning “May your redness be mine, and my paleness be yours.” This phrase is believed to transfer troubles and problems to the fire, while inviting good fortune and blessings.
Jumping over the fire requires courage and agility, as the flames can reach significant heights. It is important to note the risks associated with this tradition, and precautions should be taken to ensure safety. In recent years, some Iranian officials have expressed concerns about accidents and injuries related to jumping over the fire.
Despite these concerns, many Iranians consider jumping over the fire an integral part of their cultural heritage. It is a time to unite, celebrate the arrival of spring, and renew one’s spirit. This act represents the strength and resilience of the Iranian people, reminding them that even in the darkest times, there is always hope for renewal and transformation.
Apart from jumping over the fire, another unique aspect of the Chaharshanbe Suri festival is the practice of spoon-banging. Children and young adults take to the streets with spoons and other kitchen utensils to create noise by banging on pots and pans.
The origins of spoon-banging are not entirely clear, but it is believed to be a way for young people to celebrate spring and ward off evil spirits. The loud noise is said to scare away malevolent forces and bring good luck for the coming year.
Over time, spoon-banging has evolved, with participants adding firecrackers and other noisemakers to the mix. It has become an opportunity for young people to express their creativity by decorating their utensils with ribbons, flowers, and other adornments.
Spoon-banging takes place in the evening on the night of Chaharshanbe Suri. Children and young adults gather in groups, armed with spoons and other utensils, and proceed through the streets, making as much noise as possible. Participants enthusiastically shout and sing traditional songs during this lively and boisterous celebration.
However, spoon-banging has faced some controversy due to concerns about noise pollution raised by Iranian officials. In certain areas, restrictions or bans on the practice have been proposed. Nevertheless, many Iranians continue to view spoon-banging as an important part of the Chaharshanbe Suri festival and a means of connecting with their cultural heritage.
In the Chaharshanbe Suri festival in Iran, in addition to the tradition of jumping over the fire, another unique practice is the lively tradition of spoon-banging. This tradition involves children and young adults enthusiastically taking to the streets, armed with spoons and other kitchen utensils, and banging on pots and pans to create a joyful and noisy atmosphere. The streets come alive with the cacophony of sound, adding to the excitement and energy of the festival.
The origins of spoon-banging during the Chaharshanbe Suri festival in Iran are not fully known, but it is believed to have emerged as a way for young people to celebrate the arrival of spring and ward off evil spirits. The loud noise created by the banging is thought to scare away malevolent forces and bring good luck for the upcoming year.
Over time, the tradition of spoon-banging has evolved. Some participants have incorporated firecrackers and other noise-making items into the practice. It has also become an avenue for young people to showcase their creativity by decorating spoons and utensils with vibrant ribbons, flowers, and other adornments.
Spoon-banging takes place in the evening on the night of Chaharshanbe Suri. Children and young adults gather in groups, armed with spoons and various utensils, and roam the streets, enthusiastically banging on pots and pans to generate as much noise as possible. The atmosphere is filled with liveliness and exuberance as participants shout and sing traditional songs during the procession.
However, the tradition of spoon-banging has faced some controversy. Certain Iranian officials have expressed concerns about the noise pollution associated with the practice, leading to calls for restrictions or even bans on the activity in certain areas. Despite these concerns, many Iranians continue to consider spoon-banging an integral part of the Chaharshanbe Suri festival, as it allows them to stay connected with their cultural heritage.
Smashing the pot (kūza-šekanī)
Another unique tradition that is a part of the Chaharshanbe Suri festival in Iran is the practice of smashing the pot, or “kūza-šekanī” in Persian. This tradition involves breaking a clay pot filled with nuts or sweets as a way to bring good luck and prosperity in the coming year.
The origins of the tradition of smashing the pot during the Chaharshanbe Suri festival in Iran are not entirely clear, but it is believed to have originated in pre-Islamic Persia. In the past, the pot represented the old year, and breaking it symbolized the end of the year and the beginning of a new cycle. However, today the tradition is more commonly associated with bringing good luck and prosperity in the coming year.
The pot used in the tradition is typically made of clay and filled with a variety of nuts, sweets, and sometimes coins. It is hung from a rope or cord in the center of a gathering of people. Participants take turns blindfolding themselves and attempting to smash the pot with a stick or other blunt object, while others dance and sing around them.
Smashing the pot requires skill, precision, and a bit of luck. It is believed that the person who successfully breaks the pot will be blessed with good fortune and prosperity in the year ahead. The nuts and sweets that spill out of the broken pot are also seen as symbols of abundance and prosperity.
Like other traditions associated with the Chaharshanbe Suri festival, the practice of smashing the pot carries some risks. Participants must take precautions to avoid injuring themselves or others, and it is essential to implement proper safety measures to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone involved.
Despite these risks, many Iranians consider the tradition of smashing the pot to be an integral part of their cultural heritage. It is a time for people to come together, celebrate the arrival of spring, and express hope and optimism for the future. Breaking the pot symbolizes the breaking of barriers and obstacles, and the embrace of new beginnings and opportunities.
Fortune telling (fāl) in Chaharshanbe Suri
Fortune-telling, or “fāl” in Persian, is another popular tradition that is a part of the Chaharshanbe Suri festival in Iran. This tradition involves the use of various methods to predict one’s fortune or fate for the coming year.
The practice of fortune-telling has a long history in Persian culture and is often associated with mysticism and spirituality. It is believed that by predicting one’s future, fortune-tellers can help individuals better prepare for and navigate the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
There are several methods of fortune-telling that are commonly used during the Chaharshanbe Suri festival. One popular method involves the use of divination cards or “tarot” cards. These cards are laid out in a particular pattern, and the fortune-teller interprets their meaning based on the position and arrangement of the cards.
Another common method of fortune-telling involves the interpretation of dreams. Participants will share their dreams with the fortune-teller, who will then offer insights into what the dream might mean and how it could impact the individual’s future.
Palmistry, or the interpretation of the lines and markings on the palm of the hand, is also a popular method of fortune-telling during the Chaharshanbe Suri festival. The fortune-teller will examine the lines on the palm and use them to predict the individual’s future.
Despite its popularity, the practice of fortune-telling is not without controversy in Iran. Some view it as a superstitious and un-Islamic practice, while others argue that it is an important part of Persian culture and tradition.
Regardless of these debates, many Iranians continue to embrace the tradition of fortune-telling during the Chaharshanbe Suri festival. It is a way for individuals to connect with their spirituality and to seek guidance and insights into their future.
Burning rue (esfand)
One of the most ancient and significant traditions during the Chaharshanbe Suri festival in Iran is the burning of rue, or “esfand” in Persian. This tradition involves the burning of dried leaves and twigs of the rue plant to ward off evil spirits and negative energies.
The use of rue for spiritual and medicinal purposes has been prevalent in Persian culture for centuries. In ancient times, it was believed that the burning of rue could purify the air and protect against various diseases. Today, rue is still widely used in traditional medicine and is believed to have a range of healing properties.
During the Chaharshanbe Suri festival, the burning of rue takes on a special significance. It is believed that the smoke from the burning rue can ward off evil spirits and negative energies, clearing the way for a fresh start and new beginnings in the coming year.
To perform the tradition of burning rue, dried leaves and twigs of the plant are gathered and placed in a metal or clay container. The container is then set alight, and the smoke is wafted around the individual or group while reciting prayers or invocations. The smoke is believed to cleanse the air and purify the surroundings, making way for positive energies and good luck.
While the tradition of burning rue may seem superstitious to some, it remains an important part of Persian culture and tradition. It is a way for individuals to connect with their spirituality and to seek protection and guidance from the divine.
In addition to its spiritual significance, the use of rue in traditional medicine has also been studied and recognized by modern science. Rue contains several bioactive compounds, including alkaloids and flavonoids, which have been shown to have antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Dropping the sash (šāl-andāzī)
Dropping the sash, or “šāl-andāzī” in Persian, is a traditional game that is played during the Chaharshanbe Suri festival in Iran. This game involves the use of a long, brightly colored sash or scarf, which is passed between players as they dance and celebrate around a bonfire.
The origins of this tradition are unclear, but it is believed to have originated from ancient Zoroastrian rituals that were practiced in Iran before the arrival of Islam. The sash is said to represent the bond between individuals and the ties that bind communities together.
To play the game of dropping the sash, a group of people gather around a bonfire and begin to dance and sing. One person holds the sash and begins to pass it to another person, who then passes it to another, and so on. As the sash is passed around, the players must try to catch it without dropping it.
The game can be played in various ways, with players adding their own twists and styles to the dance. Some players may try to pass the sash over their heads or under their legs, while others may try to jump over the sash as it is passed to them.
Dropping the sash is a lively and energetic game that is enjoyed by people of all ages during the Chaharshanbe Suri festival. It is a way for individuals to come together and celebrate their community, while also having fun and enjoying the festive atmosphere.
In addition to its entertainment value, the game of dropping the sash is also believed to have spiritual significance. The passing of the sash is said to symbolize the passing of positive energy and good luck between individuals. It is believed that by participating in the game, individuals can strengthen their bonds with others and attract good fortune and prosperity in the coming year.
A Wish-Granting Snack (Ajeel e Chaharshanbe Suri)
Ajeel e Chaharshanbe Suri is a traditional snack that is consumed during the Chaharshanbe Suri festival in Iran. This snack is believed to have wish-granting powers, and its consumption is said to bring good luck and prosperity in the coming year.
The snack is typically made up of a mix of dried fruits, nuts, and seeds, such as pistachios, almonds, raisins, and pumpkin seeds. The ingredients are carefully selected to represent different aspects of life, such as health, wealth, and happiness.
The process of making Ajeel e Chaharshanbe Suri is a communal one, with families and friends coming together to prepare the snack. The ingredients are mixed together and placed in small bowls or trays, which are then distributed among the participants.
As the snack is consumed, individuals are encouraged to make wishes and set intentions for the coming year. It is believed that the wish-granting powers of the snack can help to manifest these intentions and bring good fortune and prosperity.
The tradition of Ajeel e Chaharshanbe Suri is believed to have originated from ancient Zoroastrian rituals that were practiced in Iran before the arrival of Islam. Zoroastrianism is one of the oldest religions in the world, and its teachings emphasize the importance of good thoughts, good words, and good deeds.
The consumption of Ajeel e Chaharshanbe Suri is seen as a way to align oneself with these principles and to attract positive energy and good fortune in the coming year. It is a way for individuals to connect with their spirituality and to seek blessings from the divine.
In addition to its spiritual significance, Ajeel e Chaharshanbe Suri is also a delicious and nutritious snack that is enjoyed by people of all ages. The mix of dried fruits, nuts, and seeds provides a range of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are essential for good health.
Ancient Origin of the Chaharshanbe Suri
The festival has its origin in ancient Iranian rituals. The ancient Iranians celebrated the festival of Hamaspathmaedaya (Hamaspaθmaēdaya), the last five days of the year in honor of the spirits of the dead, which is today referred to as Farvardinegan.
They believed that the spirits of the dead would come for reunion. The seven holy immortals (Aməša Spənta) were honored, and were bidden a formal ritual farewell at the dawn of the New Year.
The Chaharshanbe Suri festival also coincided with festivals celebrating the creation of fire and humans. By the time of the Sasanian Empire, the festival was divided into two distinct pentads, known as the lesser and the greater panje. The belief had gradually developed that the “lesser panje” belonged to the souls of children and those who died without sin, while the “greater panje” was for all souls.
Chaharshanbe Suri During Qajar Empire
A custom once in vogue in Tehran was to seek the intercession of the so-called “Pearl Cannon” (Tup-e Morvārid) on the occasion of Chaharshanbe Suri. This heavy gun, which was cast by the foundry-man Ismāil Isfahāni in 1800, under the reign of Fath-Ali Shah of the Qajar dynasty, became the focus of many popular myths.
Until the 1920s, it stood in Arg Square, to which the people of Tehran used to flock on the occasion of Chaharshanbe Suri. Spinsters and childless or unhappy wives climbed up and sat on the barrel or crawled under it, and mothers even made ill-behaved and troublesome children pass under it in the belief that doing so would cure their naughtiness.
These customs died out in the 1920s, when the Pearl Cannon was moved to the Army’s Officers’ Club. There was also another Pearl Cannon in Tabriz. Girls and women used to fasten their dakhils (pieces of a paper or cloth inscribed with wishes and prayers) to its barrel on the occasion of Chaharshanbe Suri. In times, the cannon had been used as a sanctuary for political or non-political fugitives to be immune to arrest or to protest from family problems.
Sadegh Hedayat, an Iranian writer of prose fiction and short stories, has a book with the name of this cannon, Tup-e Morvārid, that criticize the old beliefs in Iranian folklore. The book also mentions the origin of the Pearl Cannon.
Today, the Pearl Cannon is placed in the opening of the Building Number 7 of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at 30th Tir Avenue, and the Cultural Heritage Organization of Iran is still in argument with the ministry to displace the gun to a museum.
Other than Iran, in what countries is Nowruz celebrated?
In neighboring countries such as Afghanistan and Tajikistan, Chaharshanbe Suri is also celebrated with bonfires and Esfand, but there are some differences in the way it is celebrated. In Afghanistan, for example, it is common to prepare special foods such as Samanak, a sweet dish made from wheat germ, and to engage in traditions such as Guli Surkh, which involves exchanging gifts of flowers and sweets.
Similarly, in Tajikistan, Chaharshanbe Suri is celebrated with traditional foods such as Plov, a rice dish, and with traditions such as Haft Sin, which involves setting up a table with seven items that begin with the letter “S” to symbolize good luck and prosperity.
What To Eat in Chaharshanbe Suri
One of the traditional foods of Chaharshanbe Suri is Ash Reshteh, a thick and hearty soup made with beans, lentils, and noodles. It is typically garnished with fried onions, dried mint, and Kashk, a type of fermented yogurt. Ash Reshteh is believed to bring good fortune and prosperity to those who consume it during Chaharshanbe Suri.
Another popular dish during the festival is Sabzi Polo ba Mahi, a fragrant rice dish that is served with grilled fish. The rice is typically flavored with herbs such as dill, parsley, and coriander, and is cooked with fragrant saffron. Sabzi Polo ba Mahi represents the hope for a bountiful harvest in the coming year.
Kookoo Sabzi is also a popular dish during Chaharshanbe Suri. It is a type of herb frittata made with eggs, parsley, coriander, and chives. Kookoo Sabzi is typically served with flatbread and yogurt, and is believed to represent new beginnings and growth.
Another festive food during Chaharshanbe Suri is Ajeel, a mixture of nuts, dried fruits, and seeds that is often consumed during the celebrations. Ajeel is believed to bring good luck and fortune in the coming year.
Finally, Halva is a sweet treat that is often prepared during Chaharshanbe Suri. It is made with sesame paste, sugar, and rose water, and is typically served with tea. Halva is believed to symbolize happiness and joy, and is a delicious way to end the festivities.
Where to go in Chaharshanbe Suri?
Chaharshanbe Suri is a widely celebrated festival in Iran, and there are many places where you can go to experience the festivities. Here are some suggestions:
- Parks and public spaces: Many parks and public spaces throughout Iran host Chaharshanbe Suri celebrations, with bonfires and other traditional activities. These events are usually open to the public and are a great way to experience the festival with locals.
- Traditional neighborhoods: Some of Iran’s older neighborhoods have particularly lively Chaharshanbe Suri celebrations, with many families participating in traditional activities such as jumping over bonfires, spoon-banging, and smashing pots.
- Private gatherings: Chaharshanbe Suri is also commonly celebrated in private homes, with families and friends gathering together to share traditional foods and engage in traditional activities.
If you are traveling to Iran during Chaharshanbe Suri, it is a good idea to ask locals for recommendations on where to go and what to do. You may also want to check with your hotel or tour operator to see if they are offering any special Chaharshanbe Suri events or activities. Regardless of where you go, be sure to dress appropriately for the weather and bring appropriate footwear for jumping over bonfires and engaging in other outdoor activities.