(Persia Digest) – Iran has had a long tradition of holding festivals, and Chaharshanbeh Suri is one of the ancient Iranian festivals of fire and a prelude to Nowruz.

Many Iranian festivals have been forgotten during the course of history, but Chaharshanbeh Suri, on the eve of the last Wednesday of the year, is a night which, according to ancient Iranian rituals, people light a great fire that sometimes burns until dawn. They jump over bonfires and sing “[let] your ruddiness [be] mine, my paleness yours” to give their illnesses, problems and sorrows to the fire, and the fire gives them its warmth and ruddiness instead.

The festival is mentioned in Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh, which indicates that it dates back to many eons ago.

Ghashogh-zani [spoon-banging] is one of the rituals of this night. In this tradition, girls and boys wear the chador veil, cover their faces, and go door-to-door. Hearing the sound of spoons being banged against bowls, the neighbors come out and drop mixed nuts and sweets in their bowls.

Chaharshanbeh Suri in different cities of Iran

Various cities of Iran have different rituals for Chaharshanbeh Suri. Shirazi men and women believe that they will not get sick in the New Year if they wash in the water from the aqueduct near Sa’di’s mausoleum on Chaharshanbeh Suri, so a huge crowd is formed around the aqueduct on this night.

In Guilan, people throw Chaharshanbeh Suri’s ashes from the bonfires under the trees on Wednesday morning and believe that the trees will become fruitful. Young girls are hit with a broom and thrown out of the house, hoping that they will get married soon.

In Mazandaran, people cook Āsh-e chehel-giah [a type of Iranian dish] which indicates good health.

In Markazi Province, boys who are ready for marriage drop their shawls down from the rooftop of the girls’ houses, and the girls make a knot in a corner of the shawl and fill it with nuts and sweets. This tradition is called Shawl-andazi [shawl-dropping].

In Azerbaijan, there is a tradition called “Shawl-sallamaq” [shawl-dropping], in which people secretly enter the neighbors’ houses and collect nuts and sweets in their shawls. This tradition is similar to Ghashogh-zani.

In Moghan, people go together to the riverside before dawn on Wednesday, make a fire and the youth ride horses. On the way back, women fill their containers with water from the river, bring it home, and pour it around the house.

In Khorasan, during the ceremony of Kuze-shekani [smashing clay pots], some salt, which is the sign of unhappiness, and some coal, which is the sign of misfortune, and a worthless dime, are thrown inside the pot, and everyone in the family turns it around their heads in turn and the last one throws the pot down the roof into the alley.

In Bushehr, after making a fire and jumping over it, people take a boat out on the water, and believe that by doing so they ward off the bad omen of this night.

In Luristan, the firewood is divided into seven parts, arranged in a row at a certain distance from one another, and then burned.

In Kurdistan, after the celebration, on the way back home, everyone picks up a handful of pebbles and without looking back throw the pebbles over their shoulders, thus warding off misfortune.

In Isfahan, lighting bonfires outside, Kuze-shekani [smashing clay pots], fal-gush [eavesdropping], Gereh-goshaee [problem solving], and other rituals of Chaharshanbeh Suri are common. In Isfahan, Chaharshanbeh Suri is also called "Chaharshanbeh Sorkhi" [Red Wednesday].

This article was first reported by Persia Digest (PD) on March 13, 2018.

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