This past weekend was Nowruz, the New Year according to the lunar calendar that Iran follows. In my book, Cloud of Witnesses, Hassan explains the idea of Nowruz to Roland who likens it to spring cleaning, a time to clear away the old and prepare for the new.
“According to the Muslim calendar this is the time for the new year, No Ruz, spring when all things are made new again. It makes sense, doesn’t it?”
“Yeah, I guess.” I knew better than to say interesting.
Hassan took a colorful scarf out of his backpack and spread it on the ground. “We have a tradition,” he began. On top of the scarf he placed a hard-boiled egg. “Where we eat specific foods. The egg represents new life just as these do—” He plucked a couple of burs and catbriers off of his soccer shirt and placed them on the scarf. “Seeds.”
Next from his bag he brought out a baggie of goldfish crackers. “Usually we use real goldfish, but these will have to do, and this is called a noghl,” he said holding up a small chewy raisin cake, which reminded me of a Fig Newton cookie. “These objects all begin with the same letter of the alphabet in Farsi.
I sat back on my haunches. “This coming Sunday will be Easter.” I tried not to think about Daddy, wishing he could come home.
“About a week or so before the New Year my mother and sisters clean the whole house, from top to bottom. They beat the dirt out of the rugs, sweep the dust out of all the corners, and wash down the windows and walls. Everything must be fresh and new. My mother makes a special uncooked wheat cake.”
“Does it taste good?”
“You don’t eat it. That would be awful. In it are whole grains of wheat. The cake is in layers, one for each member of the family. The unbaked cake is kept moist so that the wheat sprouts and begins to grow. Soon the cake becomes a beautiful green thing.”
“Sort of like a Chia pet?” I asked.
Hassan stared at me. “It’s just a symbol.”
“On the thirteenth day of the New Year the family takes this wheat cake outside and throws it away, and with it goes all the bad feelings and quarreling in the home.”
I needed a No Ruz cake for every time Angie pulled up in her Trans Am. If only it were that easy to rid the trailer of Granny’s foul moods.
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