Photo credit: Sally Butcher

The age of Trump: Day 58

Day 58 in the age of 45 – and it is an auspicious night. Tomorrow is Nowruz, the ancient Persian New Year, celebration of the first day of Spring, of life and light and colour. Because we of the east are inherently pluralistic, this multi-millennial tradition of Zoroaster and Mithras is heralding in the more middle-aged (or should I say medieval – it sure feels like it sometimes) year of 1396. Mind you, given what 2017 has been like, I’m hoping that 1396 might be a better bet.

As Firoozeh Dumas writes in the New York Times, Nowruz is perhaps the happiest of all holidays. It starts a week before the first day of spring, with our ritual of jumping over bonfires (or candles) to chant that we shed our ill-health and take on the scarlet glow and warmth of the flames. It’s the night of ghashogh zani – when we’d cover up in chadors with empty bowls and clacking spoons, and knock on people’s doors and ask for sweets. For us as kids there was an excitement associated with setting the Haft seen (table of seven Ss each symbolic of something good – life, wisdom, health, wealth, and so on), of colouring eggs and buying the goldfish.

(Just an aside – The Persian goldfish of our childhood seemed more resilient and prone to life than their Western counterparts. The Iranian ones survived the tap water of Tehran far better than the goldfish of Connecticut Avenue in NW DC that seem to need bottled water, and still insist on suicide by long jump by day five.)

Along with the fish, we also bought new clothes lebass eid. As kids we understood that most people bought a new set of clothes just once a year at Nowruz. No Black Fridays or Blockbuster President’s day sales in those days.

I don’t remember necessarily liking the checked red and blue dress I got one year, but it was new and it went along with my oh-so-shiny new shoes. And then the round of visits – two weeks of comings and goings to relatives’ homes, of being with cousins, of New Year cookies, and of elders lining up the kids and handing out eidy– crisp new banknotes that smelled of money. As kids we’d count our bills and compare who got what from whom. And of course there were the gold coins. The tiny ones were quarter Pahlavis, while the ones the size of an American quarter were the full Pahlavis. These came from the closest aunts and uncles or grandparents and they were treasured – unless of course, like me, you’d hand it to your mom or dad for safekeeping, not realizing that half the time, they were recycling them as eidys to others! For 12 days, we celebrated with family and friends, and on the 13th we’d have the final hurrah, a massive outing to my aunt’s garden in Poonak, to tie knots in the fresh blades of grass, and send our sabzehs floating down in the first gush of the newly melted snow rivers.

If there is a tradition that defines Iranians, it is Nowruz. It is filled with life and joy and love and hope and colour, laughter and music. So very different to the concept of martyrdom – morose, black and angry – that was the blanket thrown over Iran when the bearded brigade took over. In all these decades since 1979, the spirit of Nowruz has never been quashed. In fact the seeds have continued to sprout, each year, and slowly they have come to re-dominate culture and life. It is nature after all – just as we see in the trees and blossoms in our yards now. An unexpected winter may come, the supreme white clouds may turn dark; they may huff and puff and cause havoc in our midst. Cold may turn hot, so that the oldest of the wisest trees as well as the most nascent blossoms may even be confused and afraid of the untimely rays of a hot sun for a while. But in the end, life and beauty will prevail. The black ICE does melt, and the mad blowhards whimper away – those seemingly fragile sprouts and buds do blossom and flourish. Because our essence, our multi-colour crazy, noisy universal beauty is rooted far deeper in this earth, than those extreme winds that buffet us. Our humanity is more deep rooted, far more pervasive than the inhumanity of the minority, who want to churn at the flowerbeds or chop down the trees to make way for their highways and high rises. Destruction is easy, but recovery and resilience propels us forward.

So we celebrate the coming of Spring. Look down and celebrate the fresh blades of grass, the daffodils and hyacinths and all the life that’s bursting out around you in every patch of soil. Listen for the song of birds newly returning from hotter climes. Nowruz means ‘new day’. It’s not say that our struggles and our worries are over. No. It is to remind us, that if a tiny crocus can survive a mad winter and still bloom in glory, then surely we can too.