Spring arrives tomorrow morning (Pacific Standard Time) and so does Norooz, the Persian New Year. My house has been filled with excitement and activity for days now. Well, to be accurate, I’ve been filled with excitement and activity as I am married to an American who, while very supportive and respectful of my culture, just doesn’t feel the full joy and importance of Norooz as I do. But, I digress.
There are a lot of customs and rituals leading up to and in preparation for the new year. Persians go through a systematic purging of the old, in order to make room for all the new and good we wish for the new year to bring. For example, on the eve of the last Wednesday of the year we celebrate Charshanbeh Soori, when we gather around bonfires and jump over them as we repeat a mantra that signifies our wish to give to the fire our weaknesses and take from it brightness and vitality.
It’s all a quest to begin anew, just as nature does all around us every spring. Rebirth is what Persians revere and seek to achieve at Norooz, which literally means “new day”.
Another ritual we faithfully perform around this of the year is a complete and thorough spring cleaning. We call it Khooneh Takooni, which literally means “shaking the house”.
My Khooneh Takooni was yesterday. We washed everything, dusted everywhere and cleaned as if the place had never been cleaned before. And while we cleaned my little apartment for hours and from top to bottom, I focused on the phrase and meaning of “shaking of the house”.
It seemed to me that Khooneh Takooni means more than just spring cleaning. After all, we do not use this phrase for any other thorough cleaning we might do at some other time of the year. And my ancestors could have just called this process spring cleaning, but they chose to use a phrase that doesn’t even refer to cleaning at all. The imagery used to describe this process evoked a deeper meaning to me. Imagine the literal shaking of a house and what the outcome might be. Shaking a house would probably shake all of its weaknesses loose. One might see and notice all the things that clutter and diminish the aesthetics and beauty of a home. One could see the unnecessary mess gathered in a year’s time.
It struck me then that the process of “shaking of the house” is similar to the ritual of giving the fire all the year’s bad and taking in its warmth and brilliance. They are both steps in a purification process. We “shake the house”, not to merely clean it well, but to shake loose and get rid of all that is unnecessary, irrelevant and incompatible with a true rebirth and reboot. We shake loose and toss away all that is sad, bad and weak just to make room for the goodness we wish to receive. We shake our houses free from the negative energy accumulated and all the gloom, grief and despair that may have found their way to us through the year that’s ending.
So, if I can shake my place free from all that, why not shake myself free from the unnecessary things and people in life, too? And that was when I truly realized the depth, breadth and beauty of the wisdom of my ancestors and the importance of the wonderful rituals surrounding Norooz for the first time in my life.
These rituals have beautiful symbolic meanings, which should be and are honored and revered by us Persians from generation to generation. But they also have real and actual lessons for each of us as individuals on a deep and personal level. And I feel that these lessons benefit everyone- whether Persian or not.
So, I sit here with my heart full of joy, anticipation and beauty; my mind filled with excitement and promise; and my soul a little wiser than before. I sit in my thoroughly cleaned home, next to my beautiful new year spread (Haftseen) with less than 24 hours left to the start of a new year and I am ready to take in the wisdom and enlightenment that my ancestors have bestowed upon me and all the generations before and after me. I sit here and I focus on a new beginning. I see my rebirth coming. I freely let go of all the weakness, fear, pain and suffering that came into this year. I happily let go of all whose presence in my life is no longer possible. And I focus on all those whose presence, friendship, love and support have helped me get through the losses of this year. I focus on those who belong in my life and bid farewell to all who do not. And I remember my loved ones who are no longer with me, but whose memories are never far from my heart and mind.
Let all that is negative, useless, weak, unworthy and unnecessary shake loose and fall by the wayside. Let all that is joyful, rewarding, enlightening, useful and constructive come into my life as I begin anew and continue to grow strong. Let a new day bloom and let new hope blossom. I am ready to start again.
Happy Spring! Norooz Pirooz.