Martha and Najmieh Cook Baghali Polo

Iranian chef and cookbook legend Najmieh Batmanglij taught Martha Stewart how to make baghali polo with lamb shank on TV this week, as well as explaining Norooz, chahrshanbeh soori, and the haftseen. So cool! (Click the photo above to watch the segment.)

(via the lovely new blog Yadashts)

Noroozetan Pirooz

Iran 2011 from Cyrus Dowlatshahi on Vimeo.


1390 begins tomorrow. Happy Norooz to you and yours.

This video of beautiful images from Iran was created by Cyrus Dowlatshahi.

(Thanks, Cyrus!)

Stephen Colbert on Norooz Sales, Sabzi Polo

Stephen Colbert… is big in Iran? Decries commercialization of Norooz? Explains the haft seen? Knows what sabzi polo is? Makes Ahmadinejad a matzo spokesman? WORLDS COLLIDE!

(Thanks, Amy!)

Sizdeh Bedar in Los Angeles

Photos and Video by Armaghan Saremi

The 13th day of Norooz, aka Sizdeh Bedar, marks the end of Persian New Year celebrations. You’re supposed to get out of the house for good luck, and being that this year was the first that I wasn’t with the fam, I took myself to Jafar Panahi’s Offside (review to follow shortly), which was hardly an alternative but as close as I could get in the horrible rainy weather of New York. Luckily my kid sister, Armaghan, took some photos at Balboa Park’s annual gathering in LA’s San Fernando Valley yesterday (it’s always done on a Sunday, regardless of what the actual thirteenth day is) and “ja’amo khali kard,” as they say (rough translation: she saved a spot for me). Above is a man dressed as Haji Firooz, a jester-like character that gave me the creeps as a child. The rest of the photos are below, but be sure to scroll down to the end of the post for a video of the cutest dancing Persian grandpa you will ever see.

Balboa Park is notable for Balboa Lake, an entirely artificial body of water composed entirely of water that’s been reclaimed, something the kid in the stream probably doesn’t know…
Intergenerational Persian chilling is what Sizdeh Bedar is all about.
Green, white, and red – not only the colors of the Mexican and Italian flags, but also that of the Iranians. Mmhm.
Welcome to the “Fesival.” They started charging for this thing last year, when some clever company got permits to host the event and started putting up fences and posting “security.” There was quite a hubbub at the gates last year, so I guess everyone’s given up and this company, whoever they are, keep cleaning up.
Oh, really? Interesting to note that someone who self-identifies as “Heir to the Throne of Iran” (see the description in the search results) would be touting democracy… interesting, interesting!

And on a joyful note:

Armaghan Saremi won her first photography accolades when she was 12 years old. She recently traveled to Mexico for a second time as part of a group building houses for impoverished families, where she photographed the mission. Armaghan has written for and edited her high school newspaper, and her essay about identity was published in the first-ever IAAB Javan Iranian-American Essay Contest eBook. She is heading to university in the fall.

Happy Norooz!

Happy Persian New Year! If you’re reading this and you’re not Persian, combine traditional New Year’s anticipation, presents from Christmas, birthday cash, brand-new-schoolyear outfits, spring cleaning, picnics in the park, feasts, a strange blackface version of an un-Santa Claus, and you’ve got the basic ingredients of Persian New Year spirit. Intrigued? Can you see why I miss being home in Los Angeles right now? If you want to read more about the holiday and how people celebrate, the blog View from Iran has the Unofficial Norooz 2007 link list up now. Maybe next year we’ll bring you a series for how to do the traditional stuff once you leave the nest… if we can figure it out for ourselves.

To all you Pars Arts readers, noroozetan pirooz! (Have a rocking New Year!) Thanks for sticking with us, and we hope you stay with us in 1386. Incidentally, if you’re not sure when the year starts where you are, here’s a handy table.

Urban Chaharshanbe Soori: or, "Why are we jumping over tealights?"

Photo: Sina Araghi

Like most young people in New York who don’t have trust funds and aren’t investment bankers, I live in an insanely small room in an apartment I share with a roommate that I found on the Internet. We have a tiny courtyard, but I’m not even on the lease so starting a bonfire to jump over it for good luck on Chaharshanbe Soori would surely get me shot by the old-school Italian landlord. Similarly, the tiny living room space I share is not conducive to a full-blown haft seen. Add to that the fact that I’m living nearly 3,000 miles away from my family for the first time ever, and the idea of Norooz this year made me incredibly homesick and sad.

This year I found myself at an Irish bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn with some friends on the night of Chaharshanbe Soori, which is the one tradition I take more seriously than any other in my life. Even as a kid, it was more magical to me than my birthday, maybe because it always involved elements of danger (jumping over massive fires) and lawlessness (the fire department is on high alert and usually shuts us down or makes us do the fire-jumping in designated areas) in addition to the usual community and family elements of all holidays. Because I wasn’t at home in LA this year, I had put a few tealight candles in my pockets and when we were all ready to leave the bar, I lit the candles outside and we all took turns jumping over the tiny flames. My friends are good sports, though I’m sure they thought I was making the whole thing up, and I feel a little better embarking on a new year having said the yellowness-redness chant as I hopped over each little candle. I’ve made up some of my own traditions, too, like making a wish as I do this and lining up three candles. So I guess some of it is made up, after all.

The next morning I woke up to find the awesome photo above in my inbox. It’s of fire-jumping at Dockweiler Beach in Los Angeles and it was taken by LA-based photographer Sina Araghi (who I met a few weeks ago in New York and who I’ll post about again soon). The photo reminds me of freaking out as a little kid by the thought of jumping over fires, and of the uncle or friend’s older brother who always jumped first, showing off as the flames appeared to engulf him. I was always convinced someone would be hospitalized before the night was through, but no one ever got burned. There were always baby-fires off to the side for the old ladies and little kids, and that’s where I’d be except when the aforementioned uncle would grab me by the armpits and swing me over the big fire himself. Even good luck requires a little risk. I like to think there’s no shame in tealights or baby-fires, but then I remember all the Iranian moms and dads that I’ve seen jump over fires with their squirming toddlers, and I realize I’m pretty much a wuss.

In any case, the whole night made me think a lot about assimilation and the different ways in which Iranians, particularly second-generation diaspora Iranians, preserve or reinterpret old traditions. I wonder what Iranians in other parts of the world are doing on these 13 days of Norooz, and I hope everyone had a great Chaharshanbe Soori, whether you were the big-fire bad-ass on a beach with lots of Iranians or the homesick wuss hopping over tealights on a city sidewalk with confused, good-humored Americans.