Tuesday, April 14, 1998

Persian Cultural Society celebrates Noruz, Chicago Maroon

Persian Cultural Society celebrates Noruz
Chicago Maroon
By Pamela Appea

The Persian Cultural Society at The University of Chicago hosted the first annual Persian New Year Celebration or Noruz, on Saturday, April 11 at Hutchinson Commons. Noruz is the Persian term for ‘new day.’

Dr. Heshmat Moayyad, professor of Persian literature in the College, gave a short lecture on Noruz.

Approximately 220 students attended the dinner which was catered by Reza’s restaurant.

Noruz, of Zoroastrian origin, a pre-Islamic religion, has been celebrated in Iran for over 2,500 years, said Moayyad during his lecture. According to Moayyad, Noruz is a cultural family affair celebrated in Iran. “Noruz does not bring divisions or conflict between different cultures [in Iran], but rather it brings these religious groups together,” he said.

For Iranians, Noruz ceremonies are representative of the never ending cycle of rebirth. In order to celebrate Noruzm new clothes are bought and houses are cleaned to welcome the new year. The event, which lasts for 13 days, traditionally starts on the first day of spring.

“Noruz has always been celebrated in my family. It’s a joyous time. It represents a new beginning for each year. During Noruz, there are always big parties and celebrations among the Iranian community. Seeing as this is the first year that the Persian Cultural Society has been active, we thought this should be our big event of the year,” said second-year student in the College Jahan Moslehi, president of the Persian Cultural Society.

In honor of the Persian New Year, members of the Persian Cultural Society set up a haftseen, a table set up with specific items symbolic of the new year. Each table includes seven articles, all of which begin with the “s”: sporouts (sabez), pudding (samanu), apples (seeb), the sweet dry fruit of a service tree (senjed), garlic (ser), sumac berries (sonaq), and vinegar (sekeh). According to ancient folklore, these items symbolize the triumph of good over evil.

“Items in the haftseen are symbolic of fertility and happiness, explained Moayyad. Other objects placed on the haftseen include coins representing prosperity, painted eggs, symbolic of the Creation, and candles representing each child in the family.

“I think we surprised a lot of people as to how smoothly the event went. We were truly honored to have Dr. Heshmat Moayyad. The Persian Cultural Society would like very much to have a close relationship with the Persian Department at the U of C in the coming years,” said Moslehi.

Featured dishes for the buffet style dinner included chen geh, a tender beef dish, koubideh, a spiced beef dish, chicken kebabs, vegetarian stuffed grape leaves, kasha-bademajan, a traditional eggplant dish, grilled vegetables, pita bread, and mastokhiar, a side-dish composed of yogurt and cucumbers.

Student government gave a small subsidy for the event while the Arab Union, local businesses and restaurants also helped sponsor the dinner.

Originally Published Tuesday, April 14, 1998