SF State celebrates Persian New Year
March 23, 2010 6:42 PM
The sounds of traditional Iranian music could be heard in the halls of the Humanities building March 23 in celebration of Norooz, the Persian New Year.
Norooz is a traditional ancient festival that celebrates the start of the Iranian New Year, which falls on March 21. Norooz is officially registered by the United Nations as an International Day and by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as "The Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity." It marks the first day of spring and the beginning of the year in the Iranian calendar.
Iranian students and those interested in other cultures came to learn about Persian culture, its history, the music and the current political standing it has with the United States.
The event began with a lecture by Mitra Ara, the founding director of Persian studies at SF State. She spoke about the history of Norooz and how it's believed to date back nearly 3,000 years. The word Norooz translates into "new day." In ancient times, Iranians believed that spirits of their deceased families and friends came to visit their descendants and their homes on this day.
The event was put on by I-House: Education in Action, foreign languages and Middle Eastern and Islamic studies.
"Students more than ever want to have their own identity," Ara said. "Simply having an Iranian student group isn't enough--we represent Afghanistan, Armenia, Uzbekistan."
Norooz is celebrated by people in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and in many other parts of the world.
"We see the Persian cultural aspects first hand," Ara said. "It's all about introducing the community, SF State, to the culture and language."
According to Ara, the Chancellor's office wants to enhance Iranian studies and put aside money for it.
"There's much to be done," Ara said. "I couldn't do any of this without the help of my students."
After the lecture, a movie was shown titled "Iran, Seven Faces of a Civilization," showing the history of Iran and its many contributions to the world such as the first wheel, toys, the development of writing and the dome.
I-House and another group called the Iranian Culture Club, which is now the Iranian Student Organization, has been active at SF State for three years, offering lectures and courses each semester.
"We are trying to find people who will be here and take over the group," 23-year-old group president Shiela Rahimian said. Rahimian will be graduating soon.
"It sounded like an interesting thing," Soraya Okeda, 18, international studies major, said. "I wanted to learn about the Iranian culture. I'm part Iranian so I've been exposed to it but I don't know much. It was an educational experience coming here."
President Obama's recent speech, which addressed Iranians and wished them a happy new year, was also shown at the event. Obama made it clear that there are many differences between Iran and the United States but that he is "prepared to move forward" and "hopeful for the future of Iranians."
"It's a good idea to expose students to Obama's speech," Elisabetta Nelsen, chair of the department of foreign languages, said. "I'm pleased. I really appreciate it and the fact that she (Ara) put on the documentary on Iran--putting it in relation to western civilization. It's useful and very respectful of a tradition."
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