by Reza Khodamehri
If you ask an Iranian, how was the Festival of Fire in your childhood, he may answer you, I loved it, I loved to play with the fire, to jump over it, to measure myself with the other children, who could jump higher and wider and to stay awake all night long. I remember many years ago when I was a little boy we just had the fire and firecrackers were a rarity. But one day my friend gave me one firecracker, proud and full of anticipation, what would happened now, I ran through the streets of our neighborhood, searching for a suitable place. As it was the custom, people were sleeping in the afternoon to become fresh for the rest of the working day.
The street close to our house seemed to be the right place. I ignited the firecracker and through it against a house wall. The bang was gigantic. Probably Teheran only heard such a bang in times of war.
I was very surprised and my heart was beating faster of joy at the sudden bang. Carefully I looked to the left and right, everywhere people were standing still and looking at me. I got frightened because I was thinking, people would hit me in anger over their disturb siesta. As fast as I could I ran back home.
But until now, I remember this story, the bang was too beautiful, that I could never forget it.”
Today Teheran is a long lasting bang, which doesn’t allow any siesta and wakes up all sleepers from their dreams. Thanks to Chinese imports firecrackers are available in every imaginable way and especially children and young people love to play with the fireworks. Parents watching this with worry since there are serious burns every year due to improper use of firecrackers, despite warnings in television. But in this night no child can be kept at home and all adults have to go out to attend this spectacle.
Many different colors are painting the sky. In the Night of Fire Teheran is like a colorful explosion and everything which has no valve otherwise, is going of, young men are in the streets dancing to Persian rhythms, the whole neighborhood gathers and everybody, having legs, is jumping over the fires, which can be found in the whole city.
The jump over the fire has a long tradition in Iran and the fire is attributing a purifying effect, with the jump all sicknesses and problems are offered to the fire and in doing so, people are singing zardi-ye man az toh, sorkhi-ye toh az ma, which means, the yellowish is yours and the reddish is mine. The yellow color symbolizes all the bad things, which people might have collected in the old year and the red color stands for the warmth and energy the fire can give.
The Festival of Fire or also named as Chahar Shanbeh Suri, is celebrated at the last Wednesday before Iranian New Year, which starts with our beginning of spring. This tradition is a kind of preparation for the New Year and it refers to a thousand year old tradition. Already Friedrich Nietzsche was writing about these old custom in his famous book Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
Later on, frozen from the cold night, after the firework has been finished, rice pudding with hot cherries will be served in the warm and cozy Persian house. Every family is sitting together, from time to time it is banging outside and slowly the city and its mountains are covered by a veil of smoke. Some lights are burning through the dust and from time to time all lights are going out until all houses became dark and only the streetlights are burning and the streets really seemed to be empty.Tonight many dreams are rising into heaven these are the dreams of the children’s souls, dreaming of lightening fire and colorful and loud fireworks.
About the Persian New Year:
About the author:
Reza Khoudamehri is an Iranian journalist, film maker and photographer. www.khodamehri.com