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  National
Iranian New Year's Day Celebrated in Seoul
Amb. Mohammad Reza Bakhtiari Hosts Reception
By Matthew Love
Associate Editor & Writer
Amb. Mohammad Reza Bakhtiari (center) poses with Mr. Soltan Pour, deputy head of mission of Iranian Embassy in Seou. At left is Mr. Joseph Joh, publisher and managing editor of The Seoul Times at a hotel in Itaewon in Seoul on March 20, 2009.

A large gathering from the local Iranian community, officials and friends turned out at the Hamilton Hotel in Itaewon, Seoul, to celebrate the coming of "Norouz" (Iranian New Year) on Friday the 20thof March, hosted by Iranian Embassy in Seoul.

Traditionally the exact moment of spring, Iranians take that as the beginning of the year. Norouz is Iran's their biggest celebration of the year. Translated in English as the "New Day," Norouz is distinctively Iranian and dates back more than 3,000 years, tracing its customs and rituals back to ancient Persian traditions and the religion of Zoroastrian before the advent of Islam in 7th century A.D. It is also the oldest recorded New Year festivity in the world. The Iranian calendar or "Solar Hejri" is the longest chronological record in human history. Nine other countries celebrate Norouz, these include Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Norouz begins each year on the vernal equinox as precisely determined by astronomical observations from Tehran or the 52.5°E meridian, which also defines IRST (Iran Standard Time). And excited revellers waited patiently, for the announcement to be relayed to Seoul from the Iranian capital. The anticipated moment arrived at approximately 8:45pm (KST), signified by loud bursts of ancient poetry from the Shahnameh (the Epic of Kings) of Ferdowsi , which has more recently replaced the Divan-e Hafez (poetry book of Hefez), as symbolising more deeply the Iranian identity values and spirits and deemed more suitable for this ancient celebration. This exact moment is called "Saal Tahvil."

After the Saal Tahvil, in Seoul on Friday, many people took to their feet and began to hug and kiss to wish each other a "Happy New Year." Gifts were exchanged, and children ran around playing happily with each other, feasting on an assortment of candy, "Aajil" (a combination of different nuts with raisins) and ice cream cones.

The Ambassador looking very much in the joys of the occasion, made his address to the community with a warm reception.

As the event in Seoul was taking place, US President Barack Obama sent his best wishes for the New Year to Iran's leaders in a video address, "looking to the future a new sense of hope" between the difficult relations of the two countries "seeking an engagement that is honest on a mutual agreement that is grounded on mutual respect." Last week, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he would also aide Iran with its civil nuclear energy program, but only in compliance with the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Authority) urging "collaboration not isolation."

The reaction so far in Tehran was, to coin an American phrase that "talk is cheap" and that only affirmed action can be the way to strengthen ties with Washington with an immediate halt to sanctions and to stop accusing Iran of seeking to build nuclear weapons and supporting terrorism, charges that Tehran rigorously denies. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has also said that Iran would welcome talks with the U.S. — but only if there was mutual respect.

A major part of the Norouz New Year rituals is setting the "Haft Seen" with seven specific items. In ancient times each of the items corresponded to one of the seven creations and the seven holy immortals protecting them. Perhaps, in this year AP 1388 (AP = Anno Persarum/ Persian year) it bring a "new begining,"one that the world has eagerly awaited as long as the Zoroastrian calendar itself. One of peace and stability and a world that works together, like it was in the begining.

On behalf of the Seoul Times, "Sad Saal be in Saal-ha" (Wishing 100 more Happy New Years) to everyone.



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Matthew Love serves as an Associate Editor & Writer of The Seoul Times. He specializes in European film as well as other cultural and social areas. He earned his BA degree with honors in Media Production with English Literature at the University of Luton, England, and MA degree in International Cinema at the University of Bedfordshire. He is the director of Kool4katz.Tv based in Bulgaria.

 

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