One of the festivities leading to Naw-Rúz is Cháhárshanbe-Souri, an ancient Iranian festival dating back to at least 600+ BC, from the early Zoroastrian Era. Cháhárshanbe-Souri (Wednesday Feast/Festival of Fire) takes place on the eve of the last Wednesday of the year (this year it falls on Tuesday, March 19, after dark). The word sour (pronounced sūr) means feast/treat or more plausibly, consider sour to be a variant of sorkh (red), referring either to the ‘fire’ itself or to the ruddiness (sorkhī), meaning good health.
Cháhárshanbe-Souri is a prelude to Naw-Rúz. Bonfires are lit to ‘keep the sun alive’ until early morning. The celebration starts in the evening, with people making bonfires in the streets and jumping over them, singing Sorkhi’e to az man, Zardi’e man az to (literal translation: Give me your beautiful red color. Take back my sickly/yellow pallor! – interpreting it as wanting the fire to take one’s illness/problems and in return give health/energy). It is a purification rite. Although it has Zoroastrian religious significance, cháhárshanbe-souri serves as a cultural festival for Iranian people of all religious ancestries and backgrounds. →
Another tradition on this day is to make special ájil (mixed nuts and dried fruits/berries). People wear disguises and go door-to-door, knocking on doors as in Halloween’s trick-or-treating. Receiving ájil is customary… as is receiving a bucket of cold water.
Coming in from the cold outdoors, what best satisfies the appetite is ásh, in this case, ásh’e reshteh (herb noodle soup). In Iranian/Persian culture, noodles are symbolic of new beginnings in life. In the old times, it was believed that noodles could bring good fortune and make new endeavors successful. Ásh’e Reshteh is served at celebrations leading to Naw-Rúz, such as at cháhárshanbe-souri.
Click photo ↓ for recipe.