Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Red Wednesday

"Give me your fiery red color,
and take back my sickly pallor."

The eve of the last Wednesday of the year (in Iranian calendar) marks a familiar event: "Charshanbe Suri" (or more correctly, "Chaharshanbe Suri"). Charshanbe Suri, which literally means "Red Wednesday", is celebrated with lighting bonfires and using firecrackers. People go to streets, gather in groups, sing and dance.

A major tradition is jumping over fires and singing "Sorkhie to az man, zardie man az to". A literal translation would be "Your redness is mine, my yellowness is yours." I found the above translation more interesting, "Give me your fiery red color, and take back my sickly pallor." I was going to write on the origins of the festival here, but I think my information on the subject is not complete and I don't want to post incorrect information to my blog. As far as I know, today's form of the festival does not seem to adhere completely to ancient Iranian beliefs. Ancient Iranians respected fire deeply and would not jump over it. The true festival of Fire, "Sadeh", is far different than Charshanbe Suri. However, the tradition, even in its today form, is very old and it does not have any religious significance. Today, Iranians with different religious backgrounds, Zoroastrians, Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists and others take part in the festival as a completely secular event.

In recent years, Charshanbe Suri has become quite a dangerous event. Last year, I went to Gisha, one of the major centers in Tehran people usually go to on this night. It was an experience much like being in a real battle front. The constant sound of Firecrackers bursting was much like the sound of bombs. As we left the place, I saw riot police coming to attack people.

Charshanbe Suri is not very much liked by the Islamic regime (and that's why I like it!). Maybe that's because on this night a lot of people gather and go completely out of control. In fact, the night before the last Wednesday of the year is one of the few occasions in which the Islamic Republic laws practically are not applied. Many women go to public places without the Islamic hejab (Islamic cover) dancing and singing with men.

This year my Esperantist friends and I went to a private garden for the festival (and one day earlier; the festival is now expanded in many days and other days are much safer than the "red Wednesday"!). Among many other things, we sang a few Esperanto songs together. It was a wonderful night.

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