Chahar Shanbeh Suri is the last Wednesday of the year before Nowruz. Chahar Shanbeh means Wednesday and Suri means red, ruddy or glowing.
The tradition includes people going into the streets and alleys to make bonfires. On this day, the community gathers after sundown to light seven small bonfires which are kept burning through the night. After the bonfires are lit, people take turns to leap over the fires chanting "Sorkhie tu az man. Zardieh man az tu" loosely translated as "Give me your ruddy complexion. Take my sickly pallor" or "My yellowness is yours, your redness is mine," with the figurative message "My paleness (pain, sickness) for you (the fire), your strength (health) for me." Fire, representing the seven cleansing fires and the eternal flame is also the symbol of Nowruz.
The night before the last Wednesday of the year is celebrated by the Iranian people as Chahar-Shanbeh-Suri, the Iranian festival of fire. Chahar-Shanbeh-Suri is the celebration of the light (the good) winning over the darkness (the bad); the symbolism behind the rituals are all rooted back to Zoroastrianism. For Zoroastrians, the temporal fire is a symbol of a spiritual flame - the source of the light of wisdom, vigour and goodness. The temporal fire is also the symbol of a purifying fire.
Nowruz represents a future enduring renovation of the world accompanied by a resurrection of righteous souls. This future event is called Frasho-Kereti or Frashigird.
At this time all souls will pass through seven discerning fires that will allow the righteous to pass but which will consume the wicked. Once the souls of the righteous have passed through the fires, they will be reunited in a world that has achieved an enduring excellence through their prior efforts - through their good thoughts, good words, and above all, good deeds.
Serving different kinds of pastry and nuts known as Ajil-e Moshkel-Gosha (problem-solving nuts) is the Chahar-Shanbeh-Suri way of giving thanks for the previous year's health and happiness, while exchanging any remaining paleness and evil for the warmth and vibrancy of the fire.
While the underlying reasons for the day may be heavy, the festivities on Chahar-Shanbeh-Suri evening are fun-filled. According to tradition, the livings are visited by the spirit of their ancestors on the last days of the year, and many children wrap themselves in shrouds, symbolically re-enacting the visits. They also run through the streets banging on pots and pans with spoons and knocking on doors to ask for treats. The ritual is called Ghoshog-Zani (spoon-hitting or spoon-beating) and symbolizes the beating out of the last unlucky Wednesday of the year. Chahar Shanbeh Suri is similar to Halloween in that both are an all hallows' (righteous souls') eve.
There are several other traditions on this night, including: the rituals of Kuze Shekastan, the breaking of earthen jars which symbolically hold one's bad fortune; the ritual of Fal-Gush (Divination by ear), or inferring one's future from the conversations of those passing by; and the ritual of Gereh-Goshai, making a knot in the corner of a handkerchief or garment and asking the first passerby to unravel it in order to remove ones misfortune.
Chahar-Shanbeh-Suri falls within, and shares concepts with, Hamaspathmaidyem Gahambar: welcoming the souls, sharing food, communal feasting and dried food distribution.
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