Iranian student organizations host Iranian New Year celebration

In celebration of the Persian New Year, over 300 people gathered in the Rome Ballroom Saturday night dressed in suits and dresses as part of an event organized by the Iranian Cultural Organization and the Iranian Student Association. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

In celebration of the Persian New Year, over 300 people gathered in the Rome Ballroom Saturday night dressed in suits and dresses as part of an event organized by the Iranian Cultural Organization and the Iranian Student Association.

A varied attendance included undergraduates, graduates, families, children and nearby high school students. The night featured an Iranian dance group from Boston, music played by Iranian graduate students and Iranian food catered by the university.

“The name of our new year is Nowruz, which means ‘new day’,” said Panteha Toloveinia, a graduate student in material science and treasurer of the Iranian Cultural Organization, adding that the actual date of the holiday was last week. “In Iran, we have a table in each house and every family sits around the table until the New Year begins.”

The table, called “the cloth of seven dishes” in English, is part of a tradition in which seven items are placed as a table setting to symbolize renewal, affluence, love, medicine, health and beauty, patience and the sunrise. Just outside the entrance to the Rome Ballroom, attendees took photos around the table setting, which included the Koran, a bowl of garlic, apples and painted eggs among other things.

“During the Persian New Year, you feel like you want to be home,” Hamed Salehizedh, a postdoc in biomedical engineering, said. “When I was in Iran, I celebrated Nowruz with my family and here, you feel like you are with Iranians and it feels good.”

Nowruz is celebrated across the Middle East by countries like Turkey, Afghanistan and even Albania. According to a PowerPoint presentation shown during the event, over 300 million people worldwide celebrate the holiday.

As a vice president of the Iranian Student Association, Shaheen Samadi said this event was, and still is, his favorite time of the year. Samadi has since graduated from the University of Connecticut, but he said he has been coming to Iranian events here since he was nine years old.

Video by Amar Batra/The Daily Campus

“It’s the New Year and that’s exciting!,” Samada said. “The same way people get excited about December 31.”

Although Samadi grew up in an Iranian community his entire life, he said not a lot of people know about the culture.

Both Ashley Gartland and Eleanor Dowd, senior Glastonbury High School students, came to the event with their Iranian friend Sara Tavakoli, also a Glastonbury senior. Although Gartland and Dowd aren’t Iranian, they said they enjoyed the traditional music and dancing experienced at the event.

“We don’t live in a very diverse community,” Dowd said. “The most Persian stuff I get is going to Persian parties with Sara.”

The event is one of two that the Iranian Cultural Organization and the Iranian Student Association hold every year. The other event, called “Yalda,” is a celebration of the winter solstice on Dec. 21.

Sarina Shafiyan is a sophomore physiology and neurobiology major as well as the vice president and treasurer of the Iranian Student Association. She said that these events have been very successful, but this year’s Nowruz event saw many more people than she expected.

“This is the most important holiday in our culture and it’s a new chapter in our lives,” Shafiyan said.

To her, Nowruz is the beginning of a clean slate when people can forget about their regrets and move into the future. Family and friends are vital elements to any Iranian celebration, she said, and the turnout Wednesday night made organizing the event well worth the effort.

“The more the merrier,” Shafiyan said.


Diler Haji is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at diler.haji@uconn.edu.