Davood N. Rahni reporting (photos by Dr. Ali Afshar)
The spring vernal equinox, Norooz, the Persian (Iranian) New Year, celebrated for several millennia in the ancestral motherland, Iran, was once again showcased with an extravagant parade in New York City by Iranian-Americans. Tens of thousands of participants and spectators enjoyed with much nostalgia the procession of beautifully decorated floats, ensembles of dancers and musicians, archaeological perspectives of Persepolis, Passargade, and Tehran's Shahyad monuments, dignitaries and grand marshals, civic leaders, DJs, and the waving American and Iranian flags and banners. Thanks to the brisk but sunny weather, the parade was substantially grander and the themes more varied than in previous years. Appreciating the tremendous resources invested into the parade, the cheering spectators, five- generations spanning over one hundred years from strollers to wheelchairs, expressed with amazement the spontaneous expression of love, respect and admirations of the rich Iranian cultures. Most striking was the pride of many grandparents along the parade route who were proudly pointing at, and explaining the various aspects of the exhibition to their grandchildren, from toddler to teenager, who had never seen Iran but have been connected spiritually to their ancestral motherland, Iran.
There were also many American New Yorkers and international tourists on the sidewalk who while enjoying the parade procession with much curiosity, were being informed of the various Persian rituals by the spontaneous volunteer guides on the sidewalks. Not only were the families well represented in the parade, but that there were also a growing number of mainstream American families atop floats, who had become appreciative of Persian culture through association with Iranian-Americans colleagues or friends.
The Parade organizers, the founding families and a growing number of others including individuals, other families and associations, had also added some new after-parade components to the venue. The historic Madison Square Park in the heart of Manhattan became the center focal point for continuance of the Norooz celebrations with DJs playing music mixes, hundreds dancing to the tunes, vendors selling Persian Chicken and Beef Kabob sandwiches, and people gathering in clusters for Norooz visits. There were also a number of other musical concerts and theatrical performances scattered throughout New York City that lasted until Sunday evening.
Inaugurated merely five years ago by a few founding families in New York, the parade has now been followed by other communities in the U.S., Canada and European major cities. A respectable number of financial and artistic supporters, organizations, associations, and talented individuals had also extended their support to ensure the success of the parade.
Norooz, commemorating the New Year, has been celebrated in Iran, formerly Persia, throughout nearly three millennia of its recorded history. Norooz begins at the vernal equinox, the first day of spring season, a day of rejuvenation and reconciliation, and, reinvigorations and rebirth. Norooz's arrival is symbolized in nature by the sprouting of greens and grains, flowers and trees. The Norooz holidays of today span from Charshanbeh Suri (jumping over the bonfire to absorb its reddish healthy strength, while getting rid of one's yellow unhealthy state of being), on the evening preceding the last Wednesday of the old year, climaxing at Norooz, and concluding with Sizdeh Bedar, the thirteenth day of the New Year. Iranians spend the last day of the holidays at a picnic in the orchards, on the prairies, by the seaside, or in the foothills where they eat and drink, dance and sing, and play and joke. On that day, the single women knot grass together in the hope of marriage before the next Norooz! On April 6, it is expected to conclude this year's new-year celebration with a Sizdeh Bedar picnic at Bear Mountain State Park.
Integral to Norooz are the visits exchanged and paying tribute to the elders, as well as receiving monetary and other gifts from them. Although Norooz at one juncture nearly three years ago was integrated into the Zoroastrian rituals, it has and continues to be celebrated by a wide range of neighboring nations from the Indus Valley to the newly established central Asian and the Caucuses nations, as well as the Kurds. Iran herself has always remained a highly ethnically and religiously diverse country, comprised of not only the Persians, but also of Iranian brethrens of Azari, Kurdish, Balouchi, Turkmen and Arab ethnicity. What has integrated them all together is their common cultural heritage and rituals and way of life, as symbolized by Norooz. So, the name "Persian Parade" applies to all Iranians within the current border of the country Iran, as well as the broader central and causes regions, as Persia and Iran is interchangeably used.
The sense of unity and pride as generated by the Parade in the Iranian-American community of nearly one million strong and the several millions in Diaspora, is unprecedented. The organizers are already planning for the sixth annual Persian Parade, as they have realized it takes almost a year to present such a unique event which costs over a million dollars, but valued a billion in terms of publicly, camaraderie, and social support network! Accordingly, the Parade organizers welcome feedback, comment, financial and artistic support, organizational and philanthropic sponsorships of the floats or artistic segments, advertisers, etc.
A proud and happy Davood Rahni :-)
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