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The last time I celebrated New Year’s, I was chugging my last beer before the start of Project Conversion and, at the stroke of midnight, asking myself what the heck I was getting into. Little did I know what this year had in store…and we are only three months in!
Now, I get to celebrate the new year all over again with Nouruz. Observed on the vernal equinox, Nouruz isn’t just a Zarathushti holiday, but celebrated across the Middle East as a way to usher in a new spring and a new year.
Meaning “new day,” Nouruz is the most important holiday of the Zarathushti calendar. This is a time when new life emerges from the cold grip of winter and Ahura Mazda receives praise and thanks for His bounties. It is indeed the bridge between darkness and light–of rebirth and renewal. Fires are lit (including a bonfire on the night before. Yes!), and in some areas fireworks are even set off.
Preparation for Nouruz begins weeks in advance. A set of new clothes are purchased (or made), pastries baked, seeds planted, and a thorough house-cleaning takes place. We in the West would recognize this concept as “spring cleaning.” A couple of days before the new year, Zarathushtis set up a ceremonial table called a Sofreh-e Haft Seen. This special table holds many items depending on your family’s tradition and each has a particular meaning. These items include flowers (to honor ancestors), a mirror (to remember lessons of the past), an oil lamp (for enlightenment), a goldfish in a bowl (life in motion), apples (symbolizing the earth), a copy of an Avesta prayer book, and/or an assortment of fruits and pastries. I’ll have images of my table up in a few days, but for now, here are a few to give you an idea:
Because my house is in chaos right now with all of the packing going on, my Sofreh-e Haft Seen table might not be this elaborate or pretty, but I’ll do my best. Which brings me to my next point: moving.
That’s right, my family is making an unexpected move…right across town. My grandparents discovered that the house next to them foreclosed and the price tag was near-miraculous. They refused to let us pass on the opportunity. We had no intentions of staying in this area, however we weren’t sure how we could afford to move where we want to eventually settle. This house is better than what we are currently renting and represents a huge monthly savings in payments. Plus its ours. This has all happened within the last two weeks. There are boxes and totes all around me and there’s barely enough room for my candles and cup-of-tea. It’s possible that one of my children are missing. In short, life is crazy now, but it all forces me to consider one conspicuous feature: the timing.
Nouruz is all about renewal, rejuvenation, and thanksgiving for God’s blessing and providence. I cannot ignore the coincidence that I am embracing the Zarathushti faith this month all while celebrating the new year and in doing so, refreshing/beginning a new chapter in my family’s life with a new house. This might not be the area we want to stay in forever, but greater wisdom shows that purchasing this house for next to nothing, making some improvements over the next few years, and then selling it for a profit that leads to a healthy down payment on something else is the way to go. But the point here is that we would have never thought of this because our eyes were set in one direction. Life came along and forced us to think outside the box. We’ve all heard that God moves in mysterious ways. Was it God? Let’s remember, the beginning of this month was when my spiritual troubles began. It’s also right before events cranked into motion regarding this house. Is there some communication going on here, some subtle message that says “I’m here…and I’m looking out for you.”
I don’t know. That’s where faith comes in, right? We all want billboards to confirm our feelings. Sometimes faith is just impossible to bear, but how often are the sweetest words passed into our hearts and minds by the faintest whisper, the gentlest kiss? A single, lonely star can be found almost immediately in a wide, black night. In our busy world of sensory overload, do we need a God with a megaphone to compete for our attention, or does the soft touch of “coincidence” do the trick?
I know I went off on a tangent there, but it’s an interesting concept to mull over and because I’m hopelessly curious and analytical, I couldn’t resist the temptation of connecting the dots.
Back on the subject of Nouruz, I’ll leave you with a short video a Zarathushti sent me about the holiday. Enjoy!