The fourth annual Nowruz celebration hosted by Dr. Moridi
|Dr. Reza Moridi, Premier Dalton McGuinty in a photo with the volunteers who with their efforts had made the event possible.|
For three hours, attendees of the fourth annual Nowruz celebration at Queen’s Park gathered at the St. Lawrence lounge of the Macdonald building and shared one of the oldest cultural traditions of ancient Iran.
The event, hosted by Richmond Hill MPP Dr. Reza Moridi, featured several Liberal Party MPPs, prominent members of the Iranian-Canadian community throughout the GTA, representatives from other cultures that celebrate the holiday and the guest of honor, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.
Joining the tea drinking Iranians were several of Moridi’s Liberal supporters, including Ontario Members of Parliament Eric Hoskins, Gerry Philips, Glen Murray and Kathleen Wynne along with Richmond Hill city councilor Godwin Chan.
Tea and Iranian desserts were consumed around an artistic “Haft-Seen Table,” a table with seven items that start with the letter S.
The seven items, Sabzeh (lentil sprouts), Samanu (Iranian pudding), Seeb (apple), Senjed (dry fruit), Seer (galic), Somaq (Sumac spice), and Serkeh (vinegar), represent the seven angelic heralds of life-rebirth, health, happiness, prosperity, joy, patience and beauty.
The evening began with greetings from the popular Haji Firuz, a character who reminds Iranians of the coming New Year by hitting the streets with his tambourine and giving glad tidings with song and dance.
The event continued with a poem written and recited by Amoo Nowruz, the older, wiser mythical character who is said to usher in the New Year. Unlike his sidekick, Hajji Firuz, Amoo Nowruz gives out gifts on the eve of the vernal equinox much like his Western counterpart, Santa Clause.
McGuinty gave a crowd pleasing speech after welcoming everyone by saying ‘saleh now mubarak,’ which is Farsi for happy new year. In his speech, the Premier touched on how the Iranian community in Ontario has added to the growth of the economy. He also showed awareness of Iran’s current societal issues when he finished his speech by reaching out to the citizens of Iran.
“It is my earnest wish that soon the people of Iran will come to know what you and I enjoy together here; the rich freedoms which are after all the birthright of people everywhere on this tiny planet that we share together,” he said.
McGuinty made the listeners chuckle when he lightheartedly gave thanks to a few ancient Persian innovations including windmills, banking, and the guitar before making a special request.
“This year, I’d like to ask Hajji Firuz for a big majority government,” McGuinty quipped.
This was the first year the two characters were featured at the event and they were received with great enthusiasm, especially from Don Mills MPP Kathleen Wynn, who received the most applause when introduced by Moridi.
“I think what it does is it allows a community to come together in a public space and strengthen a relationship with government,” said Wynn. “I really think it is such a rich culture that has been brought to Ontario so I feel very much at home.”
Nowruz has been celebrated for at least 3,000 years and is deeply rooted in the rituals and traditions of the Zoroastrian religion. Today, it is celebrated in Iran, Iraq, India, Afghanistan, Tajikestan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.
Toronto Iranians Community Group’s president Mohammad Sheikholeslami who was also in attendance said that the event is getting better every year, adding that non-Iranian participants are intrigued with the holiday.
“They are very interested in Haft-Seen and what it symbolizes,” he said. “To me, this is part of integrating into the Canadian society and bringing our culture, in this case, Nowruz, to the GTA community,” he continued.
Some of the participating cultural organizations included the Zoroastrian Society of Ontario, Ismaili Muslim Community in Ontario, and the Afghan-Canadian Senior Centre.
Dr. Moridi has made this event an annual one since his inception as Richmond Hill’s MPP in 2007, and was one of the main advocates for the motion to recognize Nowruz, before the House of Commons passed it on March 30, 2009.
Moridi is in the last year of his first term as Richmond Hill’s MPP, and will be a candidate for a second term. If he does win his second term, Iranian-Canadians will likely be celebrating up to four more Nowruz celebrations at Queen’s Park. Moridi is confident that the party will continue.
“I am 100 per cent sure that we will be here next year,” he said.
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