Tomorrow marks the day when many Iranians around the world celebrate spring equinox, or Norouz (“New Day”). As much as I love Norouz and the symbolism, tradition and culinary delights that accompany it, I appreciate Chahar Shambeh Souri even more. This event takes place on the last Tuesday before Norouz and is marked by a tradition of fire jumping – sounds strange, but it is quite a lot of fun, and many a pant leg have been subject to some lapping flames on occasion! I remember when, as a child, I was finally allowed to stay up until it was dark and go out into our public courtyard where I could watch what seemed like hundreds of people jumping over dozens of small fires, drawn to its light and energy like a moth to a flame.
But why jump over fires on New Year’s Eve? Well, the belief is that by doing so, you are literally washing the old year out of your hair and preparing for the new and exciting year ahead. The fire symbolizes that which cleanses evil spirits as well as old sins and wrongdoings – the flames takes the blame and everyone can rest happily on this night, knowing they are starting with a clean slate tomorrow.
I love the food we traditionally eat on Chahar Shambeh Souri, especially my Great Grandmother’s Sheesh Andaz (‘Throw in 6’ because it has 6 ingredients pan-fried together – onion, oil/butter, raisins, dried apricots, pomegranate paste/lemon juice, and finally one egg, thrown in sunny side up). We pair this with reshteh polow (a mixed rice containing vermicelli noodles), as well as shaami, or ground meat and potato patties made with turmeric. Tonight, we are not counting carbohydrates, or watching our portions – we are enjoying the moment and jumping over fires.