Charshanbe Suri Origins
Iran (Persia) has been always rich in history including many national celebrations. Iran (Persia) celebrates many ancient events and festivals all year round. One of them is Charshanbe Suri. The Persian name of the festival consists of Charshanbe (چهارشنبه, Wednesday), and Suri (سوری, festive). Fire has a fundamental role in this public event. Such an ancient festival is held on the last Wednesday eve before the vernal equinox.
Charshanbe Suri has its origin in ancient Persian rituals. The ancient Persians celebrated the festival of Hamas-path-maedaya. It was related to the last five days of the year in honor of the spirits of the dead. Nowadays this issue refers to Farvardinegan (spring festival). It is the time that the spirits of the dead come for reunion. Charshanbe Suri also refers to celebrating the creation of fire and people.
Jumping over the fire
Originally Iran (Persia) is a country which is based on Zoroaster’s beliefs and traditions. Persian people believe water, fire, soil, and air are sacred because they are the four basic elements of nature. Among these four, fire has the most blessings because it never gets polluted.
Charshanbe Suri starts with an array of bonfires which are lit throughout the cities, towns and villages. Many city squares are full of the energy of the people and the light of fire. At sunset, people jump over the flames. Cheering, singing and dancing are part of the festival. People gather by the fire, jump over it, and they say to the fire “Give me your red color and take my back luck!” The ritual consists of jumping over the fire in a symbolic exchange of light for darkness. It refers to the stage of rebirth in Iran (Persia).
Many people have family and friend gatherings and jump over fire at home. Buying a large number of traditional sweets, fruits and sour nuts is done in almost every city of Iran. It is a common belief that eating these nuts on Charshanbe Suri will bring good fortune.
Charshanbe Suri includes a custom similar to trick-or-treating of the Halloween night which is called Qashogh-Zani (قاشقزنی). Young people wear special costumes, and masks and knock on doors. Like Halloween, young people cover their faces and go to their neighbor’s door.
Young people go to the doors to hit spoons against plates, copper and metal pots or bowls and receive Persian snacks and candies. When neighbors answer their doors, they will bang the spoons together or against plates or bowls. If available, neighbors will give them Ash (a Persian soup).
Wearing colorful veils by women is an original Persian tradition. Colorful veils (Chador in Persian) are worn as part of spoon banging. In recent years, young men have joined this ceremony with putting on veils like women. This reflects a desire for having fun only. It is the Halloween of Iran (Persia) but it is older that Halloween. Like Christmas which has Persian roots, Halloween may also have the same root.
Kuze-Shekani (Earthenware jar-shattering)
In some parts of Iran (Persia), people put coal (the sign of bad luck), and some salt (the sign of the evil eye) in a jar. A cheap coin is dropped in a jar which shows removing poverty. People turn the jar around their heads one by one. Then, one of them throws the jar over the roof onto the alley. Thus, the evil eye and poverty leave the family.
In Isfahan city, eavesdropping by young women is common on Charshanbe Suri night. Unmarried girls eavesdrop outside their neighbors` doors. What the girl hears will say whether she is going to marry a man. Nowadays this tradition is for fun only.
In Tabriz, some married women buy new sweeps, combs and mirrors. Some people believe that the waters get renewed in coming year. Therefore they break old jugs and fill new jugs with fresh water, splash it in their rooms and make tea for a good year.
Gereh-Goshaee (Opening a knot)
In some families, women or persons who have run into some problems tie the knot or make a knot at the corner of a headscarf. Then they ask the first person whom they come across to open it. The willingness will signal hopeful days in near future.
In some parts of Iran (Persia), engaged men drop a shawl down from the roof of their fiancé’s house. Then she should present him with some Persian sweets or any other present. It is a special night for newly-married women. Many of them receive lots of gifts including fruits, nuts, cakes, sweets, flowers and gold. It is a custom that grooms` families go to their brides` family homes and spend the night with them and give them lots of gifts.
Charshanbe Suri is also celebrated in other parts of Persia such as Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kurdish territory in Western Asia, Parsi people in India, and Persian people in the USA, Australia, Canada and Europe.
Different versions of Charshanbe Suri are also celebrated all over the world including America, Canada, and the Netherlands. It is the symbol of burning bad lucks and looking for better future.
As an equivalent to Halloween, Charshanbe Suri is the symbol of light, purity and hope for the future of Western Asia and Central Asia. We can make a change and bring more unity to people with celebrating our traditions in these two regions. If you come to Iran as a tourist, Shiraz and Isfahan cities are the best places to see Charshanbe Suri. The last Wednesday eve before the vernal equinox (March) is the best time to see this public event.
A man in red clothes like Santa on Charshanbe Suri night
Fire playing in Tehran, Iran
Jumping over fire on Charshanbe Sur night
Charshanbe Suri full of fun and energy
Earthenware jar-shattering in Birjand, North East of Iran
Shawl-dropping in a village in Iran
Men and women covered in colorful veils after spoon banging
Spoon banging by kids like Halloween
Spoon banging by young women in Tehran
High quality Persian pomegranates and sweets as part of the festival of fire