Iranian-Americans mark a doubly festive holiday

New year coincides with birthday of Persianfounder of Zoroastrianreligion.

An overflow crowd packed the California Zoroastrian Center in Westminster on Saturday to celebrate the Iranian new year and – in what is probably the oldest birthday celebration in history – the birth of Zoroaster, the founder of the faith, by some calculations born nearly 4,000 years ago.

The crowd of about 700 turned out for a lively, musical evening that was part religious observation, part new year’s party and part holiday children’s pageant, the latter leading off with four small girls in orange skirts and wrist scarves joined by one small boy in the “Bora Bora” or “Go Go” dance.

Some 2 million Iranian- Americans and others with roots in countries that were once part of the Persian Empire began celebrating Nowruz or New Year at the spring equinox, March 20.

The festival continues for 13 days and for Zoroastrians is perhaps the most important time on their faith’s calendar.

Zoroaster’s birthday falls on the sixth day of the celebration.

“This is a very simple and basic religion,” said Nasrin Ordibeheshti Waltman of Huntington Beach, who helped organize the event.

“It gives us a formula: good thoughts, good words, good deeds. This is the basis of our religion. If anybody followed those rules they are going to be happier and have a good life. It’s a way of living.”

The traditional Nowruz dinner features an herbed-rice- and-fish dish called sabzi palau ba mahi.

Families spend some time around a traditional table setting called the Haft Seen, or Seven S, that includes seven items that begin with the letter “S.”

They include sabzeh, green shoots symbolizing resurrection and the new life to come. Others may include seeb (sweets representing joy), senjed (a lotus fruit symbolizing love) and sir, garlic to ward off evil.

Also on the table can be painted eggs to symbolize fertility, a goldfish bowl to represent the world’s oceans, and candles representing the eternal fire, the most significant purifying symbol of the faith.

The holiday is preceded by spring cleaning.

“We do the spring cleaning not just of our house, but of our thoughts and souls,” Nasrin Waltman said. “And we go visit the oldest of our friends and relatives, the seniors first, then the younger ones. And they visit us back. It’s part of the custom. We also give presents to the young ones.”

Shabahran Pooladzandi, 45, an Irvine engineer, said his religion urges a quest for truth.

“It tells us to go ahead and use this material world in order to grow spiritually. The world and human beings are good by nature. It is the choices that you make” that make the difference, Pooladzandi said.

“It is an ethical religion.

Original article here