Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Since Nowruz falls on a Wednesday this year, Chaharshanbe Suri begins a full week ahead. It is also a time for spring cleaning. Though not celebrated as far afield as Nowruz (which extends to the Balkans), the fire festival is celebrated in Iran, Azerbaijan, Kurdistan, and parts of Central Asia that are culturally in the Iranian sphere.
There were reports in 2010 that Ayatollah Khamene'i had banned celebrations of Chaharshanbe Suri, though if true that may have been to prevent public gatherings in that first spring after the post-election revolts of 2009. Though not essentially a religious feast in its present form, and celebrated by Christian and Jewish and Zoroastrian Iranians as well as Muslims, the presence of the bonfires may evoke Zoroastrian fire rituals for some conservative Muslim clerics.