By: The Kabul Times
KABUL: Spring is just around the corner, and for the Afghan and Iranian community in Windsor it marks a time of renewal and a new beginning as they prepare to celebrate Nowruz. Although the pandemic is putting a bit of a damper on the festivity for the second year in a row, it’s still being observed by some.
Nowruz, which translates to “new day,” is celebrated on the day of the spring equinox. It marks the beginning of the new year on the Persian calendar by more than 300 million people all around the world, according to the United Nations.
It’s an ancient holiday that has been celebrated for more than 3,000 years and observed in The Balkans, Central Asia, the Middle East, South Asia and other regions.
People tend to celebrate the holiday by wearing new clothes, cleaning their homes and preparing traditional food such as samanak — a sweet paste made from homegrown wheatgrass and haft-mewa — “seven fruits,” a mixture of dried fruit and nuts soaked in water.
Bas Bibi Shiva, an Afghan poet in Windsor, said she would usually explore the outdoors with her loved ones in Afghanistan, but that hasn’t been the case in Canada in the last two years.
“We’re in quarantine, so I don’t go anywhere,” she told CBC News in Dari, one of the languages spoken in Afghanistan.
For Reza Alirezaee, the co-owner of Alborz Persian Restaurant, the holiday reminds him of his childhood.
“It brings back memories of Iran, of my hometown, my culture,” he said. “It was a really fun time. So I always remember that. Seeing family. It [was] just a great feeling.”
But with the pandemic entering its second year, he also won’t be able to celebrate like he’s used to doing.
“Of course it makes us very sad that we can’t see all our friends, all our loved ones that we usually celebrate with,” he said, adding that he’s going to be spending the holiday with his immediate family and speaking with other loved ones virtually.
Keeping the spirit alive
Yet Shiva, Alirezaee and his family are still keeping the spirit alive by following pandemic-friendly traditions, including growing wheatgrass — called sabzi — which is used on the haft-seen table — a display of seven symbolic items whose names start with the letter “s.”
Each item on display represents something positive for the coming year, including good health, love, beauty and patience.
While it may not be the new year they had envisioned, Alirezayi and Shiva hope to celebrate Nowruz with loved ones again next year.