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February 25, 2014 > Nowruz Celebration

Nowruz Celebration

By Medha Raman

The Iranian New Year No Ruz is a celebration of spring Equinox. The present day Nowruz, with its uniquely Iranian characteristics, has been celebrated for at least 2,500 years and is deeply rooted in the rituals and traditions of 3rd to 7th century AD Zoroastrianism, the religion of Ancient Persia before the advent of Islam. On Nowruz, families wear new clothes, light a candle and sit around the table to read the Quran starting with the elderly. Afterward, the elders stay home while the younger people visit their neighbors and are given gold coins or aydeh as presents. In the evening, a feast is prepared and all family members sit down together to eat and enjoy the festivities.

Celebrating the beginning of the New Year is one of the oldest and the most commonly observed festivals, with a long history in the Middle East. Such celebrations were closely tied in with various gods and involved ceremonies expressing joy over life's renewal. Gradually a new theme, "temporary subversion of order," emerged out of the festivities and soon spread throughout the Middle East. Babylonians believed that the first creation was order that came out of chaos. To appreciate and celebrate the first creation, all roles were reversed during their New Year festival. Disorder and chaos ruled for a while, and eventually order was restored - and succeeded - at the end of the festival. This tradition of temporary subversion of order was borrowed by many including Iranians, who eventually incorporated some of these rites into Iranian New Year celebrations by appointing their own mock king, Meer No Ruzi.

In one ancient text from the Sasanian period, Bundahishn (foundation of creation), it is said that The Lord of Wisdom (Ahura Mazda), residing in the eternal light, was not God. He created all that was good and became God. Angra Mainyu (Ahriman), living in the eternal darkness, created all that was evil and became the Hostile Spirit. To protect his creations, the Lord of Wisdom also created six holy immortals, making Ahura Mazda the protector of all humans and the holy fire. Many feasts, festivals and rituals were created to pay homage to the seven creations, the holy immortals and Ahura Mazda. The seventh and the most elaborate was No Ruz, celebrating the Lord of Wisdom and the holy fire at the time of spring equinox. Nowruz, meaning "The New Day," is the name of the New Year in the Solar Hijri calendar, usually March 20th or 21st, when the sun enters Aries.

To commemorate this event, the Fremont Main Library will showcase a ÒNowruz CelebrationÓ with a dance performance by Ballet Afsaneh and Persian music by Ebrahimi brothers on Saturday, March 1. Union CityÕs Library will feature a similar presentation on Sunday, March 23.

This critically acclaimed Ballet Afsaneh performance ensemble will present the dance, music, and poetry of the historic Silk Road networks of Eurasia. "Afsaneh" is a wonderful word, shared by the major language groups of the Silk Road, meaning "legend" or "mythic story." Traditional repertory includes the folkloric and classical dances of Iran, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Turkey, China, and India.

Ballet Afsaneh brings to light the history, poetry, iconography, and spiritual heart of these enduring cultures. Sharlyn Sawyer, founder and artistic director of the company, is very passionate about preserving the dances and keeping the flame alive in the diaspora of the modern world. Since the companyÕs inception in 1986, Ballet Afsaneh and the Afsaneh Art & Culture Society have produced critically acclaimed programs for San Francisco's de Young Museum, the Asian Art Museum, British Museum in London, and the Cabrillo Music Festival. The company has also toured in Central Asia and sponsors international artists during their visits to the United States.

The ÒNowruz CelebrationÓ will also feature the music of the Ebrahimi brothers, Mohammad and Mehran, highly trained and sought after Persian musicians. The brothers perform in local Persian events such as weddings and engagements as well as international folk music events. In addition, they provide expert instruction for those interested in playing traditional Persian instruments.

For more information about the event, call (510) 745- 1401, or visit Details about the performing groups can be found at and

Nowruz Celebration
Saturday, Mar 1
2:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Fremont Main Library
Fukaya Room
2400 Stevenson Blvd., Fremont
(510) 745-1401

Sunday, March 23
3:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Union City Library

34007 Alvarado-Niles Rd., Union City
Free admission

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