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Khwajah Piruz (Haji Firuz)

The month during which Nowruz celebrations are held is an extraordinary time in the life of the community. In ancient times this aspect of Nowruz was so prominent that the mayors of towns were literally displaced by the most victorious person in carrying out the commands of Ahura Mazda and his six holy immortals. This victorious (piruz) khwaja or lord was given the rule of the realm for the period. As a part of his duties, Khwaja Piruz saw to it that all the people of the realm were provided with the amenities and joy that were due them. In time, especially after the fall of Iran to the Arabs who would not relinquish rule to defeated foes, the office of Khwaja Piruz deteriorated into its Arabized form, Haji Firuz. Only the duty of stimulating laughter and providing a good time has remained of what must have been a complex set of social. Today, Haji Firuz is no more than a spectacle that occurs during the last few weeks before Nowruz. He and his troupe of musicians appear on the streets and alleyways all over the country.  

Known as the traditional herald of the Nowruz, Haji Firuz is a black-faced character clad in bright red clothes and a felt hat playing a tambourine and singing, "haji firuze, sali ye ruze." (It is Haji Firuz time. It happens one day a year!). People of all ages gather around him and his troupe of musicians and listen to them play the drum, saz or kamancheh and dance. Those who are impressed with the troupe's performance shower it with coins and paper money.

Often, well-to-do Iranians invite Haji Firuz to their home to perform for their wife and daughters who would otherwise never see Haji Firuz in action on the street. Here the group plays popular folk music, performs a variety of comic routines, and tells jokes. At the end of the performance the members are invited to a nice Nowruz meal and are handsomely compensated for their contribution with an eydi (Nowruz gift).

Charshanbe Souri

The actual Nowruz ceremonies begin on the eve of the last Wednesday of the out-going year. Early in the evening of that day, referred to as charshanbe souri or "Red Wednesday," several rather large bonfires are made; every member of the family jumps over the fire and says, "sorkhi-e to az man, zardi-e man az to," which literally means "Give me your redness and take away my wintry sallow complexion). The jumping over the fire is followed by a get together in which nuts and fruits are served. This party is mostly for the benefit of the children of the family who are entertained, long into the night, with stories that they will remember with joy throughout their lives.

While the party goes on the fire dies out. The ashes are gathered and, as the symbol of the bad luck imposed by winter, are taken out of the house and buried in the fields. When the person in charge of burying the ashes returns and knocks on the door, those who are in the house ask, "Who is it?"

"It is I," says the person returning.
"Where are you coming from?"
"From a wedding," is the response.
"What are you bringing with you?" is the last question.
"Happiness and mirth," is the response.

Only then the door is opened and the herald of the new life, who has warded off the bad omen and the evil eye, is ushered in.

Fire is of particular significance in ancient Iranian cultures. The charshanbe souri fire might have been related to the signals sent to the spirits of the departed to guide them to their previous abodes to enjoy the prayers that their descendants perform for their benefit. The fact that traditionally the fires were lit on the roofs of houses speaks directly the necessity of the fire to be distinct and visible.

Qashoq zani

As part of the charshanbe souri festivities, and very much like Halloween, children--sometimes accompanied by adults--visit their neighbor's houses in disguise. The disguise is usually something like a veil (chador) covering the entire body. Each member of the party carries an empty metal bowl and a metal spoon. At the neighbor's door, they create a chorus with banging the spoons on the bowl and on the door. The neighbor opens the door and places a treat in each visitor's bowl. The party then proceeds to the next house. As a rule, the members of the party must remain silent and anonymous throughout the process. Often boys and girls who otherwise would have no occasion to see each other, meet across the threshold.


A more culturally interesting aspect of the charshanbe souri celebration is the falgush performed by girls in their teens and young unmarried women. For this, the teenagers or the unmarried women huddle in the corners of dark alleys and listen to the conversations of passersby. The contents of the first sentence of a conversation exchanged is regarded as an omen (fal) or portent for the future. For instance, if a young girl hopes to get married sometime during the next year and hears the following, "There is no way that any sane person would say no to such an offer..." she would be elated. Conversely, if she hears some thing like, "Do you think we didn't try? It's like talking to a brick wall,..." she would be utterly disappointed.

Tup-i Morvari

Tup-i morvari or pearl cannon was a large cannon kept at the Arg (citadel) of Tehran. Studded with pearls, the cannon was rolled out on charshanbe souri night. Tehrani women, wishing to get married in the coming year, climbed on the cannon and walked under it hoping that their wish would come true.  

Gereh Gushai

Those who have encountered problems for which there has been no solution often stop the first passerby crossing their path and ask him or her to undo a knot they have tied in a shirt tale. The willingness or unwillingness of the strange passerby to undo the knot is an omen for the resolution of the problem in the coming year.

Pishvaz-i Nowruz

Still as a part of the charshanbe souri festivities the family places several low-denomination coins (pul-i siyah), a piece of charcoal, seeds of the wild rue, and a piece of rock salt in a new earthen water jar. The jar then is taken up to the roof and from the edge of the roof, the content of the jar is tossed off into the street. While filling the jar the person says, "My pains and misfortunes into the jar!" and when tossing the contents, says, "My pains and misfortunes onto the street!" Serving as a preventative measure, the items in the jar have the power to foil any attempt by Evil at harming the family during the coming year. Often water is also added to the contents to aid the absorption of evil and to make it sink deeper into the ground.

Shab-i Jo'e

The dinner for the Thursday before Nowruz must include pilau and chicken. Fulfilling this ritual would assure a similar dinner at least once in a week for the entire duration of the coming year.


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