Iranians, Pakistanis, Afghans and several other cultural groups celebrate the Persian New Year, or Nowruz, on the first day of the spring equinox.
Students, faculty and community members use this holiday to discover a home away from home and to celebrate the holiday.
The Persian Student Association hosted the Persian New Year celebration on Friday, beginning with a traditional dinner in Holmes Hall followed by a dance party showcasing traditional Persian dance and a comedian in the MSU Ballroom in The Union. This event was only part of the New Year celebration, as the holiday lasts for 13 days.
The Persian New Year, traditionally a time spent with family, transforms into a time many international students miss home.
“I was homesick the first time I was here without my family during the New Year,” International Student Association President and economics junior Symbat Payayeva said.
Payayeva left her home in Kazakhstan to enroll in language courses at MSU three years ago with five other students and has since found herself at home with the Persian Student Association and the International Student Association.
Payayeva said the Persian Empire used to be one larger empire and Central Asia still celebrates the New Year and other cultural events, even after independence, just 23 years ago.
“The Persian Student Association has a really fun, and similar culture to mine,” Payayeva said. “I don’t feel sad about being away from family and relatives houses, missing tradition.”
Vice President of the Persian Student Association and chemistry graduate student Hamideh Keshavarz said for Persians the most important holiday is the New Year.
“People celebrate together and have a big event, which is a chance to introduce culture to other international students,” Keshavarz said.
Traditionally, Keshavarz always celebrates the New Year with parents and family, and this year marks the first that Keshavarz will celebrate with friends.
Away from home, Keshavarz makes a habit to celebrate the same way her family celebrates in Iran.
“I think the culture is precious to me because all my ancestors have the culture,” Keshavarz said. “I grew up with it. If I don’t take it serious, I won’t have this culture when I (share) my own children.”
The New Year celebration lasts for 13 days and is filled with traditions that date back 1,000 years, to Zoroastrian traditions.
The Haft-Sin, or the seven S’s, is a major traditional table setting of Nowruz on display at the Persian New Year, including seven specific items starting with the letter S or sin in the Persian alphabet.
The items symbolically correspond to seven creation and holy immortals representing seven elements of life — fire, earth, water, air, plants, animals and humanity.
“All family get together around the spread, give gifts and say ‘Happy New Year’,” Keshavarz said.
Excited to share her culture with students from all communities, ISA and roommates, Keshavarz is dedicated to celebrate the little details of her culture away from home.
“Here I feel more that I have to try to keep it alive, otherwise it’s going to die very soon,” Keshavarz said. “I try to keep the culture for myself and my future family.”