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Persian New Year bridges cultures

For the first time in Korea, the Iranian Embassy showcased one of its most important national holidays.

Nowruz, widely known as the Persian New Year, is celebrated and observed by Iranic people.

Newly arrived Iranian Ambassador Ahmad Masoumifar explained that it is a holiday also celebrated in Central Asia, Caucasus, South Asia, northwestern China, the Crimea and some parts of the Balkans.

“We organized this event because we want to bring our two peoples closer together,” he told The Korea Herald.

Nowruz marks the first day of spring and the beginning of the year in the Iranian calendar.

“Nowruz is a celebration of the renewal of nature after the slumber of winter,” he said. “It goes as far back as records go.”

It is customary for all to take a bath and cleanse themselves thoroughly before Nowruz.

Before the start of the New Year, family members all dress in their best, sit around the table and eagerly await the announcement of the exact time of the spring equinox on radio or television.

The head of the family recites the Nowruz prayers, and after the time is announced, each member kisses the other and wishes a happy Nowruz.

Elders give gifts to younger members. Next, the rounds of visits to neighbors, relatives, and friends begin with each visit reciprocated.

“Nowruz is connected to nature and people and it helps to bring people back to nature,” said Masoumifar.
Iranian traditional musical troupe Pegah (Yoav Cerralbo/The Korea Herald)
Iranian traditional musical troupe Pegah (Yoav Cerralbo/The Korea Herald)

Last year, the United Nations General Assembly recognized the International Day of Nowruz, describing it as a spring festival of Persian origin which has been celebrated for over 3,000 years.

During the meeting of The Inter-governmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage of the United Nations in 2009 in Abu Dhabi, Nowruz was officially registered on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

“Since the United Nations recognized Nowruz as an international day, we want to introduce Nowruz to other people in other countries,” he said. “It is a common heritage of humanity.”

To introduce Nowruz to South Korea, the embassy held a special event with Iranian food and Persian music to entertain guests.

The traditional musical troupe Pegah was specially flown in from Europe, where they are on constant tour, for this special event. Pegah also performed traditional Iranian music at the Seoul Center for Culture and Tourism in Myeong-dong.

But this was just a small taste of things to come.

Masoumifar announced that next year there will be a slew of cultural events celebrating the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.

While the details are still being decided, the Iranian cultural week will tentatively be held in August and will be filled with music performances, art exhibitions and movie screenings.

“Knowing each other, how they perform their cultural and traditional events is very important and the only way to break barriers,” he said.

By Yoav Cerralbo (yoav@heraldcorp.com)
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