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Spring Has Sprung!

Saturday, March 19, 2011
The first day of Spring is tomorrow and besides my allergies, there is much going on.  #achoo!

First, the Moon will be at its fullest tonight; bigger and brighter than ever.  This super perigee moon is going to rise in the east at sunset in all of its full Moon glory and I don't know about you, but I will definitely be ready with my camera!  "The last full Moon so big and close to Earth occurred in March of 1993," says Geoff Chester of the US Naval Observatory in Washington DC. "I'd say it's worth a look." 

And as if that weren't exciting enough (well, it is to me *insert Nerdy Brown Girl grin here*), my Facebook friend and Brainy Brown Girl Dr. Danielle N. Lee of Urban Science Adventures just posted that she's in St. Louis for a US celebration of Holi, a spring religious festival for Hindus celebrated at the end of the winter season on the last full moon day of the lunar month Phalguna (that would be today).  [Wiki]  Holi is also known as the Festival of Colors.


Click here for a recipe for this cool & refreshing traditional Indian drink.

Women preparing the Holika Dahan bonfire
at Thapathali, Kathmandu. Nepal.
Usually, bonfires are lit the day before Holi in memory of the miraculous escape that young Prahlad accomplished when Demoness Holika, sister of Hiranyakashipu, carried him into the fire. Holika was burnt but Prahlad, a staunch devotee of god Vishnu, escaped without any injuries due to his unshakable devotion. [Yep, Wiki again]  And even if you don't understand the intricacies of Hindu religion, you can most likely understand the idea of celebrating unshakable devotion, yes?  I know I do. 

And just when you thought the rare full Moon and the Hindu Spring Fling was enough to keep the party going, there is a Persian party going on too (!) ... and it's called Nowrūz...or more simply...Persian New Year.  I learned about Nowrūz from one of my store customers who came in yesterday to "buy something new for the New Year."  Of course, I started asking questions ("What New Year?") and found myself all up in her business as she talked about Persian culture and customs (new clothes, fire jumping, food, etc.). 

Both my customer and Wiki say that Nowrūz marks the first day of spring and the beginning of the year in the Iranian calendar and dates back to the 2nd century AD. Spring cleaning, or Khouneh Tekouni (literally means 'shaking the house') or 'complete cleaning of the house' is commonly performed before Nowruz. Persians (Iranians, Afghans and Tajiks) and other Indo-Iranian groups (Kurds, Azarbaijanis and Balochs) start preparing for the Nowruz with a major spring-cleaning of their houses, the purchase of new clothes to wear for the new year and the purchase of flowers (in particular the hyacinth and the tulip are popular and conspicuous). On the New Year's Day, families dress in their new clothes and start the twelve-day celebrations by visiting the elders of their family, then the rest of their family and finally their friends. On the thirteenth day families leave their homes and picnic outdoors.  [Wiki]

Haft Sîn is a major traditional table setting of Nowruz.
Today, the haft sin table includes seven specific items starting with
the letter 'S' or Sīn (س) in the Persian alphabet.
1. sabzeh - wheat, barley or lentil sprouts growing in a dish
symbolizing rebirth
2. samanu - a sweet pudding made from wheat germ
symbolizing affluence
3. senjed - the dried fruit of the oleaster tree
symbolizing love
4. sīr - garlic
symbolizing medicine
5. sīb - apples
symbolizing beauty and health
6. somaq - sumac berries
symbolizing (the color of) sunrise
7. serkeh - vinegar
symbolizing age and patience
Kurds in Istanbul celebrate Nowruz.
Oh.  And then there's the cool thing with the fire.  Looks like fire is not only used to celebrate Holi, but is also the symbol of Nowrūz.  #noticingthesimilarities betweencultures  In Kurdistan, jumping over the fire (known as Chuwarshama Kulla) happens on New Year's Eve. 

Likewise, Chahārshanbe-Sūri - which means feast in Persian - is an ancient Iranian festival ... [a]lso called the Festival of Fire ... and is a prelude to Nowrūz. The words Chahar Shanbeh mean Wednesday and Suri means red[Wiki rocks] #nowthat'shot

It's a rainy dreary day as I sit here and type this blog post that is full of color and life (and fire!); and I feel excited about the rare Moon and the start of Spring.  Holi Masti and Happy Persian New Year everyone!  What do you do to celebrate the start of Spring?



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