Spring brings new year celebration for Persian culture

Performers presented traditional Persian dancing as students and faculty sampled the food and took part in ‘Nowruz,’ the Persian New Year. (Tim Lee).

The Central Eurasian and Middle Eastern Studies Society celebrated the Persian ‘Nowruz’ New Year in the atrium of the Social Sciences building on Thursday March 18, a celebration marked by the coming of spring.

“The point of this celebration is to get the word out about the Persian culture and region,” junior international studies and English major Esther Tetruashvily said.

The Nowruz or “New Day” celebration brought forth an awareness of the spring season within the Persian culture to the campus through ethnic foods and dances, a traditional Nowruz table and information regarding the languages and programs offered at the College. In between the traditional Persian dancing and the different foods, including baklava, humus and naan — also known as pita bread — the “Sofreh Haft-seen” table stood holding the seven traditional articles which symbolize the triumph of good over evil in people’s lives.

Along with foods representing life, wealth and abundance, there were others, such as fruits that symbolized love, patience, purity and health. Next to the foods on the Nowruz table were coins for prosperity, painted eggs for fertility, goldfish for life, a mirror for reflection and candles for enlightenment and happiness.

After learning about the traditional culture, students were invited to visit the tables covered in papers and pamphlets regarding study abroad programs in the Middle East and Central Eurasia. American University of Cairo and the University of Damascus both offer direct study abroad programs for students of the College. These recent programs came to the College via the Title 6 UISFUL Grant: “Iran and Beyond.”

“We want to expand the Persian and Arabic languages and the curriculum at the College,” history department professor Jo-Ann Gross said. “There are currently two minors offered and certain concentrations, but we want more support for the curriculum to rebirth here on campus.”

Besides the study abroad programs, Gross is working with Zulya Rajabova, president of the Silk Road Treasure tours in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. This upcoming May, Gross will accompany nine students and four other faculty members for a Maymester tour with this program.

For students who will not have the opportunity for a trip abroad, the Central Eurasian and Middle Eastern Studies Society which planned the Nowruz celebration, has other events planned for the rest of the semester including workshops, performances and films.

“I’m hoping for a bigger membership next semester,” Tetrushvily said. “This and other events are great opportunities for the culture to be more aware on campus.”

The first day of spring is an important day in the ancient Iranian culture and has been celebrated for over 3,000 years by the people of the Middle East and Central Eurasia. The United Nations General Assembly has officially decided to recognize this holiday as of 2010. Nowruz is officially registered on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. It is now celebrated on March 21, or the day of the vernal equinox.

Keep a look out for more Central Eurasian and Middle Eastern Studies Society events this semester.

Hilarey Wojtowicz can be reached at wojtowi3@tcnj.edu.