On March 20, people around the world and on the IU Campus will celebrate the Persian or Iranian New Year known as Navruz (or Nowruz).
Navruz has been celebrated for over 3,000 years in Western, Central, and South Asia, the Caucasus, the Black Sea Basin, and the Balkans. It is a secular holiday for most, but remains a holy day for Zoroastrians, Baháʼís, and some Muslim communities.
Monet Ghorbani, a second-year HLS Master’s student and Department of State Pickering Fellow, grew up celebrating the holiday at home and is now looking to share this tradition with the greater IU community.
“My family is half Iranian. I grew up in an Iranian household and we celebrated Navruz just about every year.”
Navruz marks both the new year in the Iranian calendar and the beginning of spring, aligning with the day of the Spring Equinox. Depending on where you’re experiencing the holiday, celebrations continue over multiple days with frequent visits from family and friends, large family dinners, and more lively traditions like Charshanbe Suri, where participants jump over bonfires and light fireworks. Though exact traditions and celebratory customs vary from country to country, all festivities usually include fireworks, visits from family and friends, shared food, and gifts for loved ones.
“The thing I really love about Navruz is that it occurs in the spring. It really feels like this time of renewal and celebration,” said Ghorbani. She has also had the opportunity to celebrate the holiday outside of her home state of Arizona during study abroad stays in Tajikistan and Mongolia. “When I spent time in Tajikistan, it was really fun to come out of winter and enjoy this really bright, vibrant celebration that brought people together and took people outside.”
Aside from pursuing an MA at HLS, Monet is also the President of the Navruz Student Association, a student group that hosts annual Navruz celebrations on the Bloomington campus. The group aims to educate the IU community about the holiday and offer a place to showcase the cultural traditions of Iran and communities throughout the region.
“It’s been a really huge treat to be able to lead the Navruz Student Association and put together these events because I don’t really get to talk about my Iranian identity very often… most of the news we hear about Iran is always kind of political and usually very negative.”
Ghorbani also notes that most people don’t know how many Iranians live in the US (estimates by the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans range from 500,000 to 1,000,000 people), which makes it both fun and important to promote a more complete and nuanced view of Iranian people and identity.
Though the group usually hosts in-person events with live performances and traditional foods, this year’s celebration will take place online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Events include a panel discussion on Navruz celebrations by diaspora communities (March 17, 5:30pm), a Central Asian concert and dance workshop with Natalie Nayun of the Pomegranate Dance School (March 18, 6pm), and a cooking workshop for participants to try their hands at a traditional Iranian spring-time dish: Ash-e-Reshteh (March 20, 11am).
You can find more information about the events marking this beautiful holiday on the Navruz Student Association Facebook page. To register, visit the following links: