This post was originally published on Third Culture Nellie.
The ancient festival of fire, known in Persian as Chaharshanbe Suri, is celebrated on the Tuesday night before Norooz (Persian New Year). Norooz marks the first day of spring and is celebrated at the Spring equinox.
Jumping over fires and chanting to say goodbye to the previous year and welcome the new year is the best way to celebrate! As well as Iran, Chaharshanbe Suri is also celebrated in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iraqi Kurdistan, Turkey (by Azeris and Kurds) and Spain (known as San Juan).
This year, I celebrated in Denmark where I’ve been studying since January. My school is closed because of the Coronavirus. We are just 12 students left out of 110 and come from all over the world: Japan, France, USA, England and Denmark. I decided to share this tradition with my friends left at school to brighten up the mood while we are currently social distancing…
How to Celebrate:
1. Make a fire
Some people make one fire. Others make multiple small fires and run across jumping over them all!
The fires should be an appropriate size to jump over! Use old wood and newspaper.
If you cannot go outside because of self-isolation, be creative. Perhaps you can use a candle (safely!) or draw a fire.
Many communities in previous years also lit fireworks.
2. Jump over the small fires
3. Chant as you jump: ‘Zardeeyé man az tō, sorkheeyé tō az man.’
Symbolically, you tell the fire to take your paleness and sickness and in return give you redness: good health, energy and warmth.
Literally translated, this means ‘I give you my yellowness, I take from you your redness’.
4. Reflect and let go of the past:
Jumping over the fire can be a cleansing ritual allowing you to forgive others, forget your resentments and have a clear start to the new year.
Reflect on what has made you upset in the past year.
You give the fire these negative feelings as you jump over. In return, you take good energy, compassion and positivity from the fire.
How We Celebrated This Year:
We were slumped across the floors and sofas at our closed school. Watching the Danish prime minister’s and the Queen’s speech updating us on the dreary Coronavirus situation, we weren’t in the best of spirits.
We made our way to the courtyard and made a small fire with wood, newspaper and a fire starter inside the little cauldron my teacher Charlotte had. Despite the wind and the drizzle, we successfully lit a fire.
We ran towards the fire and all but one jumped over! We chanted together ‘Zardeeyé man az tō, sorkheeyé tō az man’! The warmth of the fire and the attitude of my friends to try something new and a little alien to them brought me so much happiness.
Sharing a tradition I love with others, especially at a time the world is going through a pandemic and I’m unable to see my family, meant a lot to me. This year was especially symbolic of bringing hope for the next few months. With the start of 2020 not being great, maybe we should restart the year in Spring instead, in the Persian calendar year 1399.
I am sending love to those struggling with the effects of Coronavirus around the world as well as those in Iran at a disadvantage due to US sanctions. The situation will improve soon.
There are some positives: learning how to work flexibly and remotely, environmental benefits such as air and noise pollution reduction and being forced to pause, reflect and spend time at home improving ourselves.
Wishing you all the best for 1399 ❤️
Here is a video from this year and 2018’s full celebrations:
Watch until the end for the real big fires!
*Please note: We are social distancing. I live with everyone at the school featured in this video. This was not a celebration done in public this year. Stay safe and please stay home.*
The images below are from Nottingham, England in 2018. We were a big Iranian community and were joined by students and local residents from all around the world!
Meet Nellie: she is best known for her wild adventures and daring challenges. Whether it’s cycling across countries, travelling with strangers or trying to live rent-free, Nellie has done it all.