Vernal Equinox

I live in Hanover, New Hampshire, a small college town up the east coast that welcomed me with winter nights of 30 degrees below. I come from Tehran, a populous metropolitan encircled by mountains, polluted with honking horns, inspection failed minibus exhausts, cigarette stubs, and empty cheese puff bags. I’m used to expecting a temperature increase even before the spring commencement, the mark of the Persian New Year, an ancient holiday that survived the post-Islam occupation. However, my first first-day-of-spring in Hanover was avalanched with snow, so when this year the sun came out to shine down an 82 degrees, I found it a pleasant surprise. Hello Spring; Happy New Year to me.


The Hyacinth: symbolizing the coming of Spring.

My sister flew in from Tehran for the event, bearing treats, many of which, she was oblivious of smuggling into the country, until attempting to put on her boots and finding bags of sumac drupes shoved into the toes, and fresh narenj, sour oranges grown in the Caspien Sea region, in her jacket sleeves- my mother is quite the criminal.

The narenj was sent for squeezing over the traditional New Year meal, herb rice and saffron coated fish, that we ate with sides of pickled garlic and an olive medley marinated in ground walnuts, garlic, and pomegranate mollasses.

We stayed up, the Vernal Equinox striking 1:14 am, which was an easy task. Of the many edible offerings my mother sent over via my younger sister, I had saved the box of chickpea flour sweets for the occasion, which we ended up getting through with a bottle of Parampampoli the guinea pig, the sustained victim of all my kitchen creations,  brought over (all the way from Italy), boiled, and flambeed.

I dipped the delicate bite sized sweets into the warm, sweet, coffee liqueur, a successful recipe of cultural mixology. We went through two saucepans of the Parampampoli, a honeyed product of Grappa rarely found outside the guinea pig’s native region (he’s a small town boy from Bassano del Grappa), found in Trentino and the north of Veneto and nowhere else, let alone outside of Italy, and half of the box of melt in your mouth sweets, native to Qazvin, a province located northwest of Tehran.

Like every holiday, Norouz (No meaning new, rouz translating to day) is about family and food. We sat by the “haft-sin”, the table setting of Seven S’s, and took photographs to be sent to my parents, and of the dinner table at the end of the night to be kept for our eyes only, which hosted empty ice cream cartons, uninhabited bottles of pinot grigio, grappa, parampampoli, pistachio shells, and a plate which once held chickpea flour sweets which now barely contained even crumbs.

Elements of the Haft-Sin; the table setting of Seven S's and beyond, that is out for the first 13 days of the new year

Vinegar: symbolizing patience and old age
Samanou: wheat germ pudding, symbolizing affluence
Sumac: symbolizing the sunrise
Senjed: dried oleaster fruit, symbolizing love

Ferdowsi's "Shahnameh", "The Book of Kings", a Persian epic poem of over 50,000 couplets, written a thousand years ago, rhyming historical and mythical tales of Persia

Happy Norouz to all Iranians, Afghans, Kurds, and everyone else who celebrates the vernal equinox as the beginning of the new year, and Happy Spring to all.


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