About Chaharshanbe Suri
Chaharshanbeh Suri is one of the ancient Iranian festivals. It takes place on the last Tuesday of March which is the eve of the last Wednesday of the year. Chaharshanbeh means Wednesday and Suri has two meanings of red and celebration. The red color is the symbol of fire. In this night people light bonfires in public areas, in front of homes and parks. They add woods to the fire and make them burn till the next morning. All the neighbors gather together and have fun singing old songs. They jump over the fire in a tow with joy and shout: ‘My sickly yellow paleness is yours; your fiery red color is mine.’ It is like a mantra you say as you make each jump, in a symbolic move to exchange all the dust and soot you have collected over the year with the liveliness and splendor of the burning fire.
By singing this song people demand from the fire to take their illness and paleness and give its warmth and redness to them instead.
Chaharshanbeh Suri is thought to bring health, cultivation, light, hope, and purity to the Iranian. People believe that this ritual is a fight against all the misfortune and evilness and brings luck, fortune, and health to the next year.
In Shahnameh of Ferdowsi (a great Iranian poet), there are also some references about this celebration that is a convincing reason to show that it has an ancient history. Another popular opinion is that the ritual has its roots in ancient Zoroastrian traditions, where the fire is sacred and considered to be the visible presence of Ahura Mazda.
Rituals of Chaharshanbe Suri
There are several rituals and routines performing in the Chaharshanbe Suri, which make the festival a richer perspective. Some of the most important ones are listed here:
Qaashoq-Zani (Spoon-hitting) in which young girls cover their entire body usually with a veil (chador) and stand at the door of neighbors and make a noise by hitting a bowl with a spoon to signal the household residing in the house and they usually fill their bowls with nuts or other small gifts.
According to the eminent Persian folklore specialist Enjavi Shirazi (1921-1993), the common purpose of ghashogh zani was to provide an excuse for a young man to go to the house of a girl he was attracted to. If the feeling was mutual, she would put one of her trinkets in his bowl; otherwise, she would drive him away by spraying water at him.
Koozeh Shekani (jug smashing)
Koozeh Shekani or jug smashing is a ritual that normally takes place after jumping over fire, rooted in the belief that smashing a jug transfers misfortune from the people of the house to the jug. In Tehran, a few coins are put in a new jug which is then dropped from the roof to the street below. In Khorasan, a lump of charcoal symbolizing bad luck, salt to ward off the evil eye, and coins for charity are put into the jug; the members of the family swing the jug around their heads, transferring any misfortune in the coming year to the jug; the jug is then smashed onto the street from the roof. At the same time, they sing something with the meaning, our sorrow and pain should go to the jar, our sorrow and pain should go to the alley.
Similarly, women yearning to tie the knot or persons who have run into some problem, make a knot at the corner of a handkerchief or some other garment and request the first person whom they come across to undo it. The willingness will signal a hopeful portent.
In some parts of the country, young boys, who are engaged, drop a shawl or wraparound down from the roof of their fiancé’s house and she would present him with some confection or other presents. Along with these rites, there are also others such as making soup for the sick, discarding the outworn furniture, etc.
Unmarried girls eavesdrop outside their neighbors' doors as divination on their marriage. What the girl hears will determine whether she is going to marry a nice man pretty soon or not. This tradition is less followed today or the girls do it for fun only.
In general, the celebration of Chaharshanbeh Suri is one of the oldest and most beautiful Iranian celebrations that has undergone many changes over time and lost many of its rituals and became dangerous fireworks or small family parties.