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Chaharshanbe Suri (Festival of Fire)

Among all of the ancient Persian festivals, perhaps, Chaharshanbe Suri is the most exciting of them all! It involves singing, firecrackers, romance, and jumping over fire!

Literally meaning “Wednesday Feast”, it is a celebration of the eve of the last Wednesday of every year in the Persian solar calendar. Chaharshnabe Suri is a happy occasion just before Nowruz which is the Persian New Year. It is among one of the olden Persian festivals in Iran that has undergone a lot of changes through the centuries and remains among one of the important Iranian festivals which is still celebrated in Iran today.

Chaharshanbe Suri ( Festival of Fire in Iran)-Iranians jump over fire, celebrating the last Wednesday of Persian Year

How is Chaharshanbe Suri, The Persian Festival of Fire celebrated?

If you are fortunate enough to visit Iran in mid-March before Nowruz; the Iranian New Year, there is a great chance you can witness the festival of fire as it’s celebrated on the streets on the eve of the last Wednesday of the year. At the time of sunset on the last Tuesday of the Persian solar calendar, Iranians pile dry shrubs in the yards, on the roofs, or on the streets and make bonfires. Then they gather around the fire and jump over it one person at a time, singing out loud a Chaharshanbe Suri chant in Farsi which translates to: “Give me your blush of red, and I give you my yellow pallor in return”. By signing this Chaharshanbe Suri song people are somehow asking the fire to give them health and take their illness away.

In recent years, the use of firecrackers has become quite popular on the occasion of Chahrashanbe Suri celebration, which may have been influenced by and adopted through Chinese festival, adding to the excitement of the night. But what matters more than crackers and the excitement is the happy faces of Iranians dancing and singing around the bonfires.

 

Chaharshane Suri or the Festival of Fire in Iran-Happy Iranians jumping over fire to celebrate

Some Iranian families who are a bit more traditional,  make the fire in the yard of their house and after everyone has jumped over the fire at the end of the ceremony, it is customary for a young female family member to take the ashes out on a dustpan and scatter them out on the street. She then comes back and knocks on the door and after answering a few questions and promising good health to the rest of the family members inside; they open the door and greet her back in.

 

The History of Chaharshanbe Suri

This celebration dates back to ancient Persian festivals when fire, air, water, and earth were revered as the four holy elements. The Zoroastrian community in Iran still has similar ceremonies and festivals that include fire rituals. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that the way Chaharshanbe Suri is celebrated in modern Iran complies with Zoroastrian traditions, since in Zoroastrianism fire has always been highly respected and kept unsullied, for it represents the spark of wisdom and is the symbol of purity in existence. A Zoroastrian believer will never jump over fire for the sake of fun.

 

Chaharshanbe Suri Food

Just like any other festival, food plays an important role in Chaharshanbe Suri. People serve sweets and nuts, such as resin, mulberries, pistachio, chestnut, almond walnuts, and dried fruits. In some parts of Iran, there is no salt in the nuts for this occasion, because it is believed to bring bad luck. Towards more central parts of the country, in cities like Shiraz, people make Halwa and Âsh.

Polo Haft Rang is a traditional dish served on the occasion of Chaharshanbe Suri

Further east in Khorasan province, they make four kinds of dishes with rice which is distributed in the neighborhood. But the most customary food that is served on this occasion is called “Polo Haft Rang” which is composed of seven different rice dishes mixed together!

 

Qashoq Zani

There are other ceremonies and traditions that accompany the Chaharshnabe Suri celebration. A famous one is Qashoq Zani, literally meaning “Spoon Banging”. This tradition in Iran is curiously very similar to Trick or Treat at the time of Halloween in western culture. During this ceremony, children use a Chador, a piece of large cloth used as hijab in Islamic culture, to cover their faces and as they are beating on a small bowl with a spoon, they go door to door asking for treats.

Trick or Treat in Iran known as Qashoq Zani-a girl banging a spoon on a bowl asking for treats

Then people in the house open the door, take the bowl and fill it with fruits, nuts, sweets, or Âsh. By doing so, they make the children happy and they believe it brings them good fortune. In some cases, a boy is in love with a girl in a house. He covers himself with a veil and goes to the door with the spoon and bowl. If the girl loves him back, she will put some sweet or nuts in the bowl. However, if she does not like the boy, she splashes water over him to drive him away!

 

Kuzeh Shekani (Jar Smashing)

People in the northeast of Iran practice another interesting ceremony on the occasion of Chaharshanbe Suri. On the day of the fire festival, people fill a pottery jar with coal, symbolizing ill fate. They also put some salt representing evil eye, and a coin representing poverty. Then they move the jar around their heads and throw it over the roofs to the streets. They believe they are driving away misfortune in the jar as it falls and smashed on the ground.

a Persian Tradition called Kuzeh Shekani-a family throwing a jar out of the house to drive away bad luck

Shâl Andâzi (Hanging Scarf)

In some more rural areas in Iran, young single men go the roofs. They hang long scarves over the roof to the yards of houses with young girls. If a girl ties a nice present to the scarf it means she fancies the boy. And if not, the boy has to try his chance in another yard.

 

Travel to Iran to see Chaharshanbe Suri

So you plan to travel to Iran at the time of Chaharshanbe Suri celebration! But you had better check with your tour operator in advance. Your trip will most probably coincide with the occasion of Nowruz holidays. You will see a lot of happy Iranians on these holidays. But it is not very easy to book hotel rooms in touristic cities in Iran.

 

Other Iranian Traditions:

Yalda Night

Ashura

Chaharshanbe Suri (Festival of Fire)

Among all of the ancient Persian festivals, perhaps, Chaharshanbe Suri is the most exciting of them all! It involves singing, firecrackers, romance, and jumping over fire!

Literally meaning “Wednesday Feast”, it is a celebration of the eve of the last Wednesday of every year in the Persian solar calendar. Chaharshnabe Suri is a happy occasion just before Nowruz which is the Persian New Year. It is among one of the olden Persian festivals in Iran that has undergone a lot of changes through the centuries and remains among one of the important Iranian festivals which is still celebrated in Iran today.

Chaharshanbe Suri ( Festival of Fire in Iran)-Iranians jump over fire, celebrating the last Wednesday of Persian Year

How is Chaharshanbe Suri, The Persian Festival of Fire celebrated?

If you are fortunate enough to visit Iran in mid-March before Nowruz; the Iranian New Year, there is a great chance you can witness the festival of fire as it’s celebrated on the streets on the eve of the last Wednesday of the year. At the time of sunset on the last Tuesday of the Persian solar calendar, Iranians pile dry shrubs in the yards, on the roofs, or on the streets and make bonfires. Then they gather around the fire and jump over it one person at a time, singing out loud a Chaharshanbe Suri chant in Farsi which translates to: “Give me your blush of red, and I give you my yellow pallor in return”. By signing this Chaharshanbe Suri song people are somehow asking the fire to give them health and take their illness away.

In recent years, the use of firecrackers has become quite popular on the occasion of Chahrashanbe Suri celebration, which may have been influenced by and adopted through Chinese festival, adding to the excitement of the night. But what matters more than crackers and the excitement is the happy faces of Iranians dancing and singing around the bonfires.

 

Chaharshane Suri or the Festival of Fire in Iran-Happy Iranians jumping over fire to celebrate

Some Iranian families who are a bit more traditional,  make the fire in the yard of their house and after everyone has jumped over the fire at the end of the ceremony, it is customary for a young female family member to take the ashes out on a dustpan and scatter them out on the street. She then comes back and knocks on the door and after answering a few questions and promising good health to the rest of the family members inside; they open the door and greet her back in.

 

The History of Chaharshanbe Suri

This celebration dates back to ancient Persian festivals when fire, air, water, and earth were revered as the four holy elements. The Zoroastrian community in Iran still has similar ceremonies and festivals that include fire rituals. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that the way Chaharshanbe Suri is celebrated in modern Iran complies with Zoroastrian traditions, since in Zoroastrianism fire has always been highly respected and kept unsullied, for it represents the spark of wisdom and is the symbol of purity in existence. A Zoroastrian believer will never jump over fire for the sake of fun.

 

Chaharshanbe Suri Food

Just like any other festival, food plays an important role in Chaharshanbe Suri. People serve sweets and nuts, such as resin, mulberries, pistachio, chestnut, almond walnuts, and dried fruits. In some parts of Iran, there is no salt in the nuts for this occasion, because it is believed to bring bad luck. Towards more central parts of the country, in cities like Shiraz, people make Halwa and Âsh.

Polo Haft Rang is a traditional dish served on the occasion of Chaharshanbe Suri

Further east in Khorasan province, they make four kinds of dishes with rice which is distributed in the neighborhood. But the most customary food that is served on this occasion is called “Polo Haft Rang” which is composed of seven different rice dishes mixed together!

 

Qashoq Zani

There are other ceremonies and traditions that accompany the Chaharshnabe Suri celebration. A famous one is Qashoq Zani, literally meaning “Spoon Banging”. This tradition in Iran is curiously very similar to Trick or Treat at the time of Halloween in western culture. During this ceremony, children use a Chador, a piece of large cloth used as hijab in Islamic culture, to cover their faces and as they are beating on a small bowl with a spoon, they go door to door asking for treats.

Trick or Treat in Iran known as Qashoq Zani-a girl banging a spoon on a bowl asking for treats

Then people in the house open the door, take the bowl and fill it with fruits, nuts, sweets, or Âsh. By doing so, they make the children happy and they believe it brings them good fortune. In some cases, a boy is in love with a girl in a house. He covers himself with a veil and goes to the door with the spoon and bowl. If the girl loves him back, she will put some sweet or nuts in the bowl. However, if she does not like the boy, she splashes water over him to drive him away!

 

Kuzeh Shekani (Jar Smashing)

People in the northeast of Iran practice another interesting ceremony on the occasion of Chaharshanbe Suri. On the day of the fire festival, people fill a pottery jar with coal, symbolizing ill fate. They also put some salt representing evil eye, and a coin representing poverty. Then they move the jar around their heads and throw it over the roofs to the streets. They believe they are driving away misfortune in the jar as it falls and smashed on the ground.

a Persian Tradition called Kuzeh Shekani-a family throwing a jar out of the house to drive away bad luck

Shâl Andâzi (Hanging Scarf)

In some more rural areas in Iran, young single men go the roofs. They hang long scarves over the roof to the yards of houses with young girls. If a girl ties a nice present to the scarf it means she fancies the boy. And if not, the boy has to try his chance in another yard.

 

Travel to Iran to see Chaharshanbe Suri

So you plan to travel to Iran at the time of Chaharshanbe Suri celebration! But you had better check with your tour operator in advance. Your trip will most probably coincide with the occasion of Nowruz holidays. You will see a lot of happy Iranians on these holidays. But it is not very easy to book hotel rooms in touristic cities in Iran.

 

Other Iranian Traditions:

Yalda Night

Ashura

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