UA hosts Persian New Year

The University of Alabama hosted a Persian New Year festival on campus for Iranians, Americans and other international students.

By Emma Cary
News Reporter

Nahal Maymandi performed traditional Iranian dances on stage for everyone at Nowruz, the Persian New Year Festival, to enjoy. The crowd roared when her name was called. Her American friends attended the Persian event, hosted by The University of Alabama, to watch and support her culture. Although she was not in her home country, she celebrated as if she was.

Meanwhile in Iran, her family gathered at her grandmother’s house to celebrate the new year. Spreads of fish, rice and desserts covered the family table as all of her extended family members enjoyed her favorite food. Everyone dressed in their newest and best clothes. Her grandparents passed out money gifts to all of their grandchildren.

Her family members knelt to pray at the “Haft-Sin” table. The table contains seven items that begin with the letter “s” in her native language. Each item represents an element of life that they ask God to bless them with in the coming year. Symbols for health and wealth, among other things, are set on the table.

“We also put a goldfish on the table. We believe that it is a symbol of life,” Maymandi said. “So we are asking God to bring all these things to our life next year.”

Iran puts everything on pause to celebrate new life in the coming of spring. Green grass and flowers decorate the streets of her hometown, Shiraz. The Persian calendar recognizes the year as 1398. Unlike the American new year, Iranians countdown the new year at the exact moment spring begins. This year, the new year began at 1:30 am.

Maymandi is a PhD candidate at the University of Alabama. It’s her first time to miss the new year with her family. She said it was hard to be away from her loved ones during this season.

“There’s certain things we do for the new year in Iran that we don’t have the opportunity to do here, so it made me miss home,” Maymandi said.

Maymandi is one of many Iranians in the Tuscaloosa community who were away from their home country during the celebration. Because of this, the Iranians in Tuscaloosa hosted a Persian New Year festival on March 19 in the Ferguson Center Ballroom. The event featured Persian food, desserts, traditional dancing and live music. Iranians, Americans and other international students gathered the celebrate the Middle Eastern holiday.

Maymandi took the stage to perform the dances and a crowd of people cheered her on. Savannah Hill, a senior majoring in advertising, attended the event to support Maymandi’s performance.

“Nahal invited me to the event and I love her so I wanted to support her,” Hill said. “Also, it’s important for people to learn about other cultures.”

Hill said she learned a lot about the differences in religion, food and culture between America and Iran. She regularly makes a point to immerse herself in other cultures and encourages other people to do that as well.

“I don’t think we should live in a bubble here in America,” Hill said. “I think we need to venture out, meet people from other cultures and attend their events because this is the world we live in and we are all really the same.”

Hamid Mahabadipour attended and helped plan the event. Originally from Tehran, Iran, he said the event reminded him of home. Although Mahabadipour has been in the states for five years, it is still hard for him to be away from home during the celebration.

“It’s kind of like Thanksgiving for Americans,” Mahabadipour said. “Everyone visits their family and enjoys being together. It’s hard to miss that.”

Mahabadipour said the Persian New Year event helped because he was surrounded by people from Iran who knows how it feels to be away from home during this season.

Mahabadipour noticed that Iranians were not the only ones to attend the event. UA students from all over the world went to support and learn about a new culture.

“One of the objectives is to introduce your culture to other people. We can show them that there are more about us than you read in the news,” Mahabadipour said. “It’s like a little introduction into our culture. It feels like showing people a little bit of your home.”