Today is the first day of the Persian New Year and the local Iranian community is getting together to celebrate. 

Bijan Babaie moved from Iran to Steinbach with his family about two years ago. He notes the Persian New Year which is called Nowruz in Iran is one of their biggest annual celebrations. 

“The first day of the Iranian New Year is the first day of spring and unlike here, in Iran we have a lot of blossoms in the trees with the start of spring. At the time that the axis of the earth and sun is parallel, that starts the new year so we don't start the new year at midnight every year. This year in [Manitoba], we start our new year at about 4:30 in the afternoon. " 

Babaie says Iranians will celebrate the new year at the moment of the equinox even when it lands in the middle of the night.  

Though the Iranian community is small in the Southeast, Babaie says they like to celebrate together. 

“In Steinbach, we have a few Iranian families, about four or five families and we gather around. This year we are gathering in the home of our best friends, the oldest Iranian family in Steinbach, they invited us to their home and we are gathering to have a celebration.” 

Babaie says there are many Nowruz traditions including a number of holiday dishes.  

“We have a special food for the new year in Iran. It is rice and fish and we call it Sabzi Polo Ba Mahi. Rice and fish is a traditional food like your turkey.” 

He notes they will also have seven emblematic items on the table called the Haft-Sin, or seven S’s which are believed to be related to happiness and health. He notes they are Sumac, Apple, a pudding, dried oleaster, garlic, apple, and vinegar. He adds all of those items start with an S in Persian. 

In addition to all of the food, Babaie says the Persian New Year is celebrated with two weeks of festivities and they give gifts much like we would at Christmas. He says they even have a character that comes by every house which is similar to Santa. 

“We don't have Santa, we have Amu Nowruz, or Uncle Nowruz. Amu Nowruz, he is an old man in traditional Iranian dress and he comes with the spring. We have a lot of traditional stories about Amu Nowruz coming to every home.” 

The period of celebration will wrap up on the 13th day of the new year which is called Nature Day. Babaie notes on that day, everyone goes out into the countryside to enjoy and celebrate nature and spring.