Nowruz in the Times of Corona

Delarai has been having a hard time lately. She moved to a small village in Belgium with her family not long ago. She misses her friends in California. To add to all of that stress, everyone is fearful of the Coronavirus. How can Delarai make friends when they are sitting so far away? As she arrives home after school and opens the door, the sweet smell of rose and pistachio fills her nostrils. That smell could only mean one thing: Nan-e Nokhodchi cookies for the Persian New Year! Delarai runs into the house and drops her books on the sofa. “Mummy? Is it really Nowruz already?!” she shouts with excitement. "What's Nowruz?" Delarai's five-year-old sister Annalisa asks, running in behind her, out of breath. Delarai turns and smiles at her sister, “It's the Persian New Year, and it means spring is here!” she exclaims. Annalisa thinks hard, trying to remember what Nowruz was like. “Is that when we jump over the fire?” she asks. “Kind of,” says Delarai, laughing, “That's the holiday starting things off, it is called Chahar Shanbe Suri!” “That's right,” Mummy says, “Great memory! Do you remember where that tradition comes from?” Delarai scrunches up her face, thinking. “I think it's about burning away all the bad stuff in our lives. I'm so excited! It's so much fun to jump over the fire with everyone, even though it is a little bit scary. Is it almost time to do it this year?” “Yes, darling, but this year because of coronavirus, we have to be more careful than usual. We cannot gather with other Iranians to do this as a group. We must stay safe, but I will ask Papa to put together some fire in the backyard and we can still celebrate together. You can even bring one friend from school, now that Belgium will allow it! For Nowruz, we can also see family and friends if we stay safely in our social distancing bubbles.” “But Mummy, I have a hard time just choosing one friend,” Annalisa moans, “I want to invite Benaya, and Louise, and Dana, and Jasmine...” Delarai shrugs her shoulders, “I don't want to invite anyone Mummy, I don't have any friends at school,” she says, sighing sadly. “We still have time to figure something out, honey. Now, we need to get busy doing khooneh tekooni, cleaning the house. Would you like to help me out?” As they clean, Delarai tells her mom about her latest school assignment from her teacher, Madame Caroline. The essay topic is to talk about how your family is celebrating a certain tradition differently in the times of corona. “You should write about Nowruz for your essay,” Mummy suggests. “That's a perfect idea!” Delarai says, excitedly. The next day at school, when Madame Caroline calls on Delarai to read, butterflies instantly erupt in her stomach. She stands up from her desk, swallowing her nerves, and gathers her courage. “How my family celebrates Nowruz in the times of corona: “Every year on the exact day of the Spring Equinox, the whole family gathers to celebrate Nowruz. Everyone in our family helps to prepare the house and puts on new clothes. By doing this spring cleaning, we wash away the bad things from the previous year and prepare for better things to come in the new year. In the evening of the last Wednesday before Nowruz, bonfires are lit and we all jump over the flames. The flames burn away sickness and bad luck and it is the warmest memory that continues in the rest of the year. After that, every family member comes and sits together around a special table called the ‘Haft-Seen', which means ‘seven S's'. On it, there are seven special objects, all of which begin with the ‘s' sound in the Farsi language and which symbolise something meaningful for the coming year.” Madame Caroline approaches Delarai and asks her what part of Nowruz she loves the most. Delarai thinks for a moment. She wants to say that the best part is getting presents for thirteen days straight, but that this year will be different because they cannot visit anyone. Usually, for Nowruz, they get to visit all family members and friends that they might have not seen for a while. Suddenly Delarai remembers that there is one part of Nowruz that even coronavirus cannot take away. Her great-grandmother always said that Nowruz is not Nowruz if someone leaves the celebrations with a heavy heart. Yes, Delarai thinks, this is the best part of Nowruz: trying to bring a smile to everybody's face. That is the core beauty of Nowruz. You forget about all of your negative thoughts and feelings and help others forget theirs too. You give them all away to the fire. Then you have a fresh space for your good thoughts, good deeds, and good actions.

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