Mehregan: The Persian Festival of Autumn (Well, At Least in the OC)

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Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I never attended any annual Mehregan events. Everyone knew about the big one in Orange County, but there has never been much else for celebration-hungry Iranians to attend. Mehregan is upon us again, and it still doesn’t look like there’s much to celebrate outside of southern California.So what is Mehregan, anyway? Though most Iranians are familiar with Mehregan, unlike Norooz, it is not celebrated by all and is mainly regarded a Zoroastrian holiday. In recent years, though, more Iranians have begun to take an interest and the celebration is undergoing a revival among the community, regardless of faith.

According to Wikipedia, Mehregan is a more than 2,000-year old Zoroastrian festival celebrated in honor of Mitra, the divinity of covenant, or the Goddess of Light. Some sources say it was a day of victory when angels helped Fereydoun and Kaveh become victorious over Zahak. Yet others say Mehregan is the day when the concept of Adam and Eve was created, and finally, it could be the day when the sun was created.

Whatever its mysterious origins are, the holiday has come to represent friendship and love. Among Zoroastrians and many other Iranians, Mehregan is celebrated today by gathering with friends and giving thanks to the harvest, handing out food to the poor, preparing and eating traditional dishes like ajil and aash, and ending the festivities with bonfires and fireworks.

And if you happen to live in Orange County, Mehregan means a huge two-day celebration on October 13 and 14 featuring folk dance groups, the ever-flourishing petri dish of Persian pop singers, a naghali performance, and traditional music ensembles. More than 20,000 people attend each year, and it has me wishing Iranians outside of southern California would organize something on a similar scale for the other community enclaves. Until then, I think I’ll begin observing a little Mehregan celebration of my own each year. Friendship and love – certainly those are concepts worthy of celebration, no?

(Editor’s note: Please leave a comment if you know of other upcoming Mehregan celebrations, and we’ll add it here!)

[Photo: ariaaboom.com]

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