This is my favorite time of year. It’s starting (or was) to warm up, layers will disappear, flowers will bloom, and it’s the Iranian New Year: Norouz. It is my favorite holiday of the year for a number of reasons: For one, it’s right after my birthday and aside from the “gift” of money we receive, I love that I’m overflowed with family (for just a few days).
My best memories are picking flowers from my mother’s garden and painting eggs for her haft-sin table. For Norouz, Iranians decorate their dining room tables with the prettiest tablecloth they can find (likely a traditional handmade piece of fabric from the motherland), spring flowers, and the seven “sins:” rose-water (symbolizing water), goldfish (animals), painted eggs (humans/fertility), mirror (sky), candles (fire), apple (earth), and wheat/barley sprouts (plants).
My mother’s sole mission is to have the most authentic and beautiful haft-sin table out of all her friends (happens every year). To this day, we leave Norouz gatherings and her first response is, “My haft-sin is so much better. Even their tablecloth wasn’t from Iran.” In our culture, everything is a competition.
As tradition goes, the eldest must give to the youngest. In my circles, this means that all parents give the children money (I’m still a child, clearly). When we attend family gatherings for Norouz, the hosts better give me my money. *Disclaimer: Amount ranges from 25 cents to five dollars (unless it’s MY parents).
Once I reached high school and the dreaded age of hormones, I was disinterested in painting eggs and picking out goldfish for the table. On the night of the Norouz family gathering, my parents left me behind while I invited three super cool jocks to my house to watch TV. (At that age, I really did invite them to just watch TV).
When my parents got home that night, my mom came into my room, introduced herself to my prepubescent guy friends, and gave them a hug. She then pulled out a stack of one dollar bills and said, “Happy Norouz” as she handed them out. My friends looked at me with an expression of confusion, but they slapped each other high-fives and left.
In that moment, all I could think was that my culture and my family were embarrassing me in front of the cool kids. These traditions made me different because my peers had no idea what it meant to kiss on both cheeks or to receive a gold coin for Norouz.
Luckily, it didn’t take me long to realize how wrong I was — how amazing it is to be a part of a culture that I’m proud of and excited to share. Iranians have an extraordinary history filled with old traditions that we remember and celebrate on a spring day like Norouz. That’s why it’s my favorite. Plus, my grandmother calls from Iran every year. I don’t need any painted eggs as long as that phone call keeps coming. Happy Norouz!