Chaharshanbe Suri

Also known as: Chaharshanbe Soori Festival, Persian Festival of Fire, Red Wednesday

Only days before the Iranian New Year, most Persians come out to celebrate Chaharshanbe Suri. 
Meaning the celebration of Wednesday or Red Wednesday, Chaharshanbe Suri is a public Persian festival dating back to ancient times. It takes place on the last Tuesday eve of the year, before the vernal equinox in mid-March.  

 

Observances 
Fire
Central to the festivities is the purification ritual of lighting fires and jumping over them. 
A popular Persian chant is sung while hopping over the fire which literally translates into: my yellow is yours, and your red is mine. The underlying concept is for the fire to take away all ailments, health issues, and weaknesses and instead give warmth, health and energy. 
A symbol of benevolence and friendship, the fires would burn until sunrise in ancient times. This was believed to bring good omen and rid people of sadness and depression. 


Mixed Nuts 
A staple snack eaten on Chaharshanbe Suri is an assortment of nuts known as Moshkel Gosha (meaning Problem Solving in Persian). The mix includes dates, pistachios, hazelnuts, almonds, dried white mulberries, leblebi, raisins and occasionally walnuts and candy.  
In traditional belief, eating these nuts would bring grace and expel jealousy. 


Spoon Tapping
Spoon tapping on Charshanbe Suri can be compared to the Western Halloween custom of trick-or-treating.
Spoon tappers would cover their heads and faces with a sheet or a chador and a mask to avoid being recognized; to remain incognito they would refrain from engaging in conversation. 
The tapping sound of a spoon on a bowl or pot would announce their presence at the doors of friends and neighbors. Having heard the tapping, residents would come to the door and fill their bowls with packed snacks such as nuts, sweets, and candy. If no snacks had been prepared for the occasion, residents would compensate in cash.  


Eaves dropping
Traditionally, unmarried girls would make a wish and hide behind a wall to eavesdrop on the conversations of random passers-by. Afterwards they would interpret the bits of conversation that they had heard and in an act of divination, decipher the codes to see whether or not their wishes will be granted. 


Evolution 
Aside from hopping over fires and eating nuts, other traditional rituals associated with Chaharshanbe Suri are seldom practiced nowadays. 
Instead crowds are often seen dancing on the streets to loud music, setting off fireworks, or lighting lanterns. 
Celebrations sometimes morph into a fearful night of terror in major cities. While the use of safer Chinese-made fire-crackers has been on the rise, hand-made explosives are still quite common and accidents causing injuries or claiming lives are reported each year. Several people prefer not to leave their homes at all on Chaharshanbe Suri due to looming danger and noise pollution. 
Aside from Iran, Chaharshanbe Suri is also celebrated in Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Iraqi Kurdistan, Tajikistan, and Turkey, specifically among the Azeris and Kurds.

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