Nowrooz-et-an Pyruz. And a Happy New Persian Year to you!

By SallyB2 Last edited 123 months ago
Nowrooz-et-an Pyruz. And a Happy New Persian Year to you!

The joy of living in such a multi-cultural metropolis, is that there is always a party going on somewhere. Now you might have thought that it was enough already that this week starts with Guinness and St. Patrick and ends up with that mega-choc-fest, Easter…. but arguably the most interesting knees-up this week is the Persian New Year Festivities: Nowrooz. And as there are something like 40,000 ex-pat Iranians living in London (most of them dentists or pizza parlour owners), that means that there is actually quite a lot going on (even though the mayor hasn’t yet turned it into yet another public Kenfest in Trafalgar Square).

The festival comprises three parts. The first, Chaharshanbeh Suri, is great fun, as it is positively pagan (well, OK, Zoroastrian) in origin and consists of having a party and jumping over fire. Literally ‘red Wednesday’, it is confusingly held on the last Tuesday of the year (this year, the 18th of March). In London there are several organised Persian bonfire parties (the fire brigade are asked along), the most famous being at Alexander Palace, but if you see your otherwise ‘normal’ neighbours leaping over little fires in their back garden and chanting, you will know that they are indeed Iranian. There are also a few ultra-over-dressed club nights around town: Londonist is intrigued by the prospect of Royal Persian Nights at the Roof Garden in Kensington (that well known Iranian stomping ground).

Then there’s the New Year itself, which is timed to the second and is in fact the vernal equinox. This year it is at a very unfestive 05.48am (Londonist time) on the 20th March. In Iran this is followed by two weeks of holiday and general abstemious merry making. In London it entails concerts: the open-shirted young men and ravishing divas that comprise the Persian pop scene in effect divide themselves between Tehrangeles and London, and put on an impressive show with an unfeasibly large billing at unfeasibly high ticket prices. This year there is one at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, but Londonist is really tickled by one at Area on the Albert Embankment on the 20th March: this is to feature four DJs from Iran, which is something rather special. Tickets are £30.00: call 07931 386033 for more details.

And then there’s Seezdahbehdah, the thirteenth day after the New Year, when Iranians will take wheat grass and sprouts which they have grown, tie knots in them, make a wish and throw them in running water. So if you see lots of batty Middle Eastern types lobbing grass into the Thames, you’ll know why. It is also a day when Iranians leave the house and picnic, and traditionally in London, this means Hyde Park.

Anyway, that’s it: the Londonist lowdown. Have a happy and prosperous 1387.

Main picture of the Haft Sin from Jovika's flickr stream. Fire jumpers from Fatemeh's Gastronomie's flickr stream.

Last Updated 15 March 2008


Tell us about this Ally Pally party. Would one need an invite or tickets? Will it be inside or out in the park (a bonfire suggests the latter)? Is there likely to be food involved? Is there more information available somewhere?


Now there's a funny thing...the Iranians rarely advertise these events, and there's certainly nothing about it on the internet.
I will confirm the starting time and post back here tomorrow. There are two or three other similar events in London too: I will get the addresses and starting times for those.
Admission is minimal and on the door; the event is outside but there are hospitality tents featuring lots of stalls selling Iranian food and sandwiches.


I'm a bit concerned that you said in your article that NowRooz is pagan in origin. It is a tradition of the Zoroastrians who are the first monotheists and therefore believe in one true God. Like all religions in the old days, they celebrate the arrival of Spring ...nature as it is. Why do you think the Catholic church considers polluting the environment as a SIN? Being one with nature is not paganistic.

I believe that pagan is "an offensive term that deliberately insults somebody's nonbelief in religion, way of life, or degree of knowledge".

Enlighten me as right now I am regretting that my HaftSin photo is even in your article.



Hi Jovika.
Thank you for use of your photo - it is the best Haft Sin photo I have seen.
Make no mistake - I am a huge supporter of Zoroastrianism, and of course it is not actually pagan. (I was using the term in the historical sense, as in a system of beliefs which predates conventional religion. It is not an insult.)
But like many religions, Zoroastrianism comprises what has gone before, and pre-Zoroaster Iran and its neighbours were polytheistic, believing in spirits of the earth, water, trees and so on. Many of the elements of the Haft Sin (and Chaharshanbeh Suri, and even Persian weddings) reflect this very ancient belief.
So don't be offended, and have a very Happy New Year!


Is anything happening for Nowrooz/Chaharshanbeh Soori this year? I can't find anything other than with the Iranian Heritage Foundation at the Grosvenor and that is just way too expensive. If anyone knows anything please let me know!