By Sierra Stivala
Trees are revived, flowers are reborn, Earth is rejuvenated and life is renewed. Students, faculty and community members gathered to celebrate the onset of spring through the Eurasian Middle Eastern Society’s (EME) Persian New Year’s Celebration on Thursday, March 24, in the Decker Social Space. The celebration is called Nowruz, which translates to “new daylight.”
According to Persian culture, each spring brings about a new opportunity to start fresh.
“It’s the coming of spring for the Persian people and the themes that go along with that — renewal, beauty, wisdom,” senior history major and EME Vice President Sammi Falvey said.
This year was the College’s seventh annual Persian New Year’s celebration. Interestingly, the number seven is spiritual, representing the number of dishes included in the Haft-Seen. Haft-Seen is a tabletop spread of dishes that all begin with the letter “seen,” or “s.”
Each dish symbolizes a hope or wish for the New Year. The dishes include sir (garlic for good health), serkeh (vinegar for patience and age), sumac (spiced berries for the spice of life), senjed (fruit of lotus tree for love and affection), sabzeh (sprouted wheat grass for rebirth and renewal), samanu (wheat pudding for fertility) and seeb (apples for health and beauty).
The celebration began with a musical performance from celebrated composer and vocalist Amir Vahab and his ensemble. The ensemble consisted of drummers and vocalists from all over the globe performing a combination of traditional Turkish, Persian and Armenian music. The outcome was a beautifully-genuine tribute to the diversity of the culture.
The carefully-intertwined melodies and languages yielded a range of rhythms. As people danced along in the back of the room, there was a noticeable transition from mellow to fast-paced songs. Vahab introduced the meaning and history of each song before it began. The music encompassed a range of topics, from love to culture. The song “Winter is Over” perfectly captures the essence of the celebration.
Junior public health major Jennifer Teets attended the celebration for the first time this year.
“I’ve never heard Middle Eastern music before,” Teets said. “Each song sounded romantic but happy. I loved watching everyone embrace that sentiment.”
After Vahab’s seventh annual performance, the celebration continued with a feast. North Brunswick’s King Pita catered the event with traditional Middle Eastern cuisine. The feast included hummus, baba ghanoush, stuffed grape leaves, spinach pies, chicken and rice.
The club reveres the event as the culmination of a year’s hard work.
“This is the flagship event for all people of the Iranian community,” senior international studies major and EME Public Relations Director Martín Crosby-Arreaza said.
One of EME’s favorite aspects of the event is the community engagement it attracts.
“A lot of people here are of Persian decent… it’s both a collegiate and community celebration,” Falvey said.
Many non-Persian students, curious to see what the celebration is all about, also attended the event. Sophomore fine arts major Melina Magriples heard about the event through an Arabic art class. Magriples enjoyed seeing aspects of the culture she hadn’t previously been exposed to.
“(In the art class), we don’t really get to see the music aspect of it,” Magriples said.
It was EME’s hope that those who attended left the celebration feeling full, happy and renewed, ready to embark upon the journey of a new year.