Photography by A. Afshar, A. Habibian & R. Sedighian
Perfect Sunny Spring weather with a mild temperature in the 50’s, enthusiastic cheering spectators, and a spectacular procession of floats and performance, brought out the best in Persian-Iranian Pride. By all accounts the spectacular extravaganza again surpassed last years.
The historical and cultural wonders
of Iran-formerly known as Persia-such as Persepolis and Isphahan, the modern
monuments of Tehran, the natural beauties of the Persian Gulf, the Caspian Sea
and Mount Damavand (~19000-ft high), Iran’s rich display of historical and
contemporary contributions to world literature, art, architecture, science and
technology were displaced on the floats rolling down Madison Avenue for almost
The Persian Parade commemorates in part the annual Persian New Year, Norouz, which coincides with the vernal spring equinox. The idea of holding a parade as conceived by a few visionary Iranian-Americans just a few years back has now grown to a grassroots movement. Recognizing the growth of Iranian-American community of nearly one million, they envisaged the need to organize an annual Persian Parade to build up the spirit in the community, especially for second and third generations of Iranian-Americans, while countering possible xenophobia. The Parade was the most effective outlet to offset the stereotypical depiction of historical Persians in the recent Movie 300. Huge signs registered the community’s concerns over the possible ramifications of the movie.
The skeptics, who stayed away in earlier years, because they reckoned the Parade would be short-lived, participated this year with much applause for the hundreds of organizers and cadre of volunteers, and individual and corporate sponsors. Everyone was so gratified that an event of such majestic magnitude will be immortalized. This year’s parade had attracted a huge number of volunteers, dancers, and float riders from second and third generation Iranian-Americans. The Babak Nowruz DVD float, for instance, was a lively massive flowers bouquet with music, dancers and nearly one hundred children from toddlers to late teens, each with a huge smile extending from “one ear to the other” and with two Iranian flags painted on their cheeks.
Along the Parade route, one could not help but watch the spontaneous networking of Iranian-Americans with many tourists. A pretty petite lady was explaining the displays of the Parade to senior citizens, German tourists. Johanna Sterbin an Iranian Studies Scholar on the sidewalk called the Parade, “An illustrative synopsis of Iranian [rich] history that will be engraved in a non-Iranian mind for life. “
A Sofreh Haftsin was showcased. It is a traditional table beautifully decorated with hyacinth and daffodils, and seven items that begin with the Persian letter “S”. They are Sabzeh (wheat sprouts) for rebirth, Seeb(Apple) for health and beauty, Seer (garlic) for health and medicine, Serkeh (vinegar) for age and patience, Samanu (custard pudding) for affluence, Somagh (sumac) for sunrise, and Senjed (Oleaster fruit) for love.
Those actively engaged in organizing
the Persian Parade are already planning for next year, recruiting volunteers,
seeking sponsors, and gathering ideas. The
Norouz festivities, lasting for two weeks, conclude with Sizdah
Bedar, an all day picnic festival in the countryside. There are several Sizdah Bedar
picnic scheduled in and around
Background on Norouz and Iranian history.
A series of excellently written articles as typified by Howard Cincotta, USINFO Special Correspondent of the Department of State titled, Iranian-Americans Celebrate Persian New Year March 20, appeared before the parade and this year’s Norouz. David Rahni has also provided ample articles on Norouz, the Persian Parade and other community endeavors of Iranian-Americans over the years.
The Norouz Festival, on which the Persian Parade is anchored, is immortalized in the Decree of Cyrus the Great, founder of the Persian Achaemenid Empire, granting national, cultural and religious freedoms to the peoples of Babylon and beyond in 542 B.C.E.:
When I entered
Norouz, the new day or the
New Year in Persian, is the cyclical celebration of the Spring Equinox.
It is the most cherished and celebrated of all Iranian festivals; it has
been observed by all peoples of the broad Iranian plateau for millennia.
Commemorating the periodic rebirth and rejuvenation of nature,
Norouz has been observed, in one form or another, since 3,000
B.C.E. by all the major cultures of ancient Mesopotamia and southwest and south
Norouz is still celebrated annually in a wide arc of territory
extending from the
The roots of
Norouz can be traced to Zoroastrianism, which is believed to be
the world's first monotheistic religion. Zoroastrianism considers
Nowouz as the last day of the seven day creation epoch; thus the
ritual of the Haft Sin, or the seven life-related, mostly plant based,
symbolic heralds, all beginning with the letter "S" in the Persian
language. During the Norouz holidays, families and friends visit
each other, pay their respects to the elderly, reach out to reconcile with
adversaries, visit the resting places of the deceased, and make donations to the
impoverished and the sick. They give and receive presents during the
thirteen day period that ends on April 1st called Sizdah
Bedar when everyone spends the whole day in the countryside dancing,
singing and playing. The
commemoration of Norouz recalls the seventh day of creation, when
homage is paid to the Creator or Mother Nature, with rest, play and party
activities. An annual Sizdah Bedar in
Norouz celebrates the
Lord of Wisdom and the holy "halo" fire in anticipation of the Spring
Equinox. The oldest archaeological evidence for Norouz
celebrations comes from the records of over 2500 years ago.
An inscription on
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