Being the first ever Iranian Ertegun scholar, I had the idea to celebrate the Persian New Year with the Ertegun community – I first discussed it with other scholars and Maria in a virtual Ertegun dinner in our Discord channel, which made them quite excited. Since the restrictions would not let us celebrate it in-person, Maria and I decided to prepare little Persian New Year goodies pack which contained elements needed for the Haftseen and also some Iranian sweets.
Haftseen is the ancient tradition of gathering around seven symbolic elements whose names begin with s at the time of vernal equinox, which marks the beginning of the spring and the Persian New Year. The seven elements are Sabze ‘wheat sprout’ (symbol of the renewal of the nature), Samanu ‘wheat pudding’ (symbol of fertility), Senjed ‘oleaster’ (symbol of love), Serke ‘vinegar’ (symbol of patience), Seeb ‘apple’ (symbol of beauty), Seer ‘garlic’ (symbol of health) and Somaq ‘sumac’ (symbol of the sunrise). These can also be accompanied by Sekke ‘coins’, candle, painted eggs, goldfish and hyacinth. Maria and I made a short trip to the Persian supermarket in Cowley to get the items that were not ordinarily sold. The plan was to bring everyone these goodies so that they can design their own Haftseen.
One other part of the celebration was growing the sprouts. Everyone was given the wheat seeds and hyacnith bulbs so that we could grow our own wheat sprout and hyacinth. Maria also provided us with wooden eggs and acrylic paint, and instead of real goldfish, we put little plastic goldfish inside the goodie bags. The night of the Persian New Year celebration, we gathered in our Discord channel for a virtual dinner (which was another generous gift from Ertegun in the form of Deliveroo vouchers) and celebration. We showed our painted wooden eggs and Haftseens to each other and decided who had the best one, and we exchanged tips about growing our wheat sprouts. It was extremely delightful to see my fellow scholars having a good time besides getting to know better the Iranian culture. For me, personally, it was exceedingly valuable to spend the Persian New Year celebration with the Ertegun community – one of the many reasons why I called Ertegun home this year.