A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Chaharshanbe Suri

This evening and tomorrow Iranians, and those whose heritage shares in Iranian cultural traditions from the Middle East to Central Asia, will celebrate Chaharshanbe Suri, the eve of the "Red Wednesday" that precedes Nowruz, the ancient Persian New Year, and begins on the previous Tuesday evening.  [Clarification: this was based on dating Nowruz on March 20 this year, which some are claiming.. Those celebrating Nowruz on the 21st will celebrate Chaharshanbe Suri next week.] Bonfires are lit and celebrations continue into the night; the feast is a survival of a pre-Islamic Zoroastrian celebration of the last week of the year, and honored the souls of the dead and the approach of spring.

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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wrong Information!

Chaharshanbe Suri is not today 3/12/2013, but next Thusday 3/19/2013.