Los Angeles celebrates Iranian Nowruz New Year

Traditional Iranian music pumped through the speakers at the Los Angeles Times Central Courtyard at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Four girls with colorful traditional Iranian costumes entered the center, and started gracefully moving to the music while people gathered to watch the show.

Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, is a celebration that stretches over a period of 13 days, the first being on the first day of spring this year, March 20.

LACMA and the Farhang Foundation, which supports Iranian arts and culture in Southern California, hosted the fifth annual celebration on Sunday.

“The best way to educate people about culture is through the arts,” said Gilda Gilak, a foundation member.

The event began in the morning displaying a Haft-sîn table.

Haft-sîn, meaning Seven S’s, is a special tradition and feature of Nowruz that consists of seven items whose names in Farsi begin with the letter "S," said Gilak.

The seven items included a red apple to symbolize beauty, vinegar to stand for patience, garlic for medicine, sumac berries for sunrise, barley or lentil sprouts growing in a dish to symbolize rebirth, wheat germ pudding to signify prosperity, and the dried fruit of the oleaster tree to represent love.

Families gathered with their children in the Director's Roundtable Garden at LACMA to participate in the youth activities that are related to Nowruz traditions, such as egg decorating, storytelling, a photo booth where children dressed up in traditional Iranian costumes, along with music and dancing.

Live music was provided by Shayan Sarfar and Yasi Hariri.

“This is the third year in a row I brought my granddaughter to LACMA,” said Ali Elahi, an event visitor. “It is a great opportunity to educate children about their culture and heritage.”

Nowruz is estimated by a solar calendar, and was adopted around 1,000 B.C.E. by the Zoroastrians. The tradition has nothing to do with religion of any sort, according to Gilak.

Preparation for Nowruz includes house cleaning, setting the Haft-sîn table, buying gifts and preparing for a festive dinner. On the actual day, families and relatives gather at an elder's house where the younger ones receive presents. It is also tradition to eat steamed rice mixed with herbs with fried fish, Gilak said.

“I am going to celebrate Nowruz with my mother and friends,” said Rozalin Asgharzadeh, an Iranian student at Santa Monica College. “Nowruz is one of the highlights of the year, so I'm very glad that my mother is here to celebrate it with me this year.”

Shanay Baseri, also an Iranian SMC student, is planning to cook Iranian food and invite friends over.

“It’s hard being away from the family, especially during this holiday when it’s all about being with family,” said Baseri. “But I can only make the most out of it.”

The Farhang Foundation chose six short films that were being shown on a loop in the Brown Auditorium at LACMA. The films were chosen based on their originality, creativity, storytelling, production value, and conception of the Iranian culture, said Gilak

The Farhang Foundation was founded in 2008 in Southern California with a mission to promote, research and teach Iranian arts and culture. This is done through university program funding, support of cultural events such as Nowruz, art shows, poetry readings, musical performance, films and dances, according to Gilak.

“I had no idea that it was the Iranian New Year,” said James Woodward, a museum visitor. ”I just brought the kid here to play around, but we are learning a lot we did not know about the Iranian culture.”