The last Wednesday of the Iranian year known as Chahar Shanbeh Suri or Chaharshanbeh Soori ( چهارشنبه سوری ), meaning Wednesday Feast is marked by special customs and rituals. The celebration usually starts in the evening, with people making bonfires (in hope for enlightenment and happiness throughout the coming year) in the streets and jumping over them singing zardi-ye man az to, sorkhi-ye to az man (Give me your beautiful red colour; And take back my sickly pallor).
Chahar Shanbeh Suri is an ancient Iranian festival dating back to at least 1700 BCE of the early Zoroastrian era, also called the Festival of Fire, it is a prelude to Nowruz (نوروز), which marks the arrival of spring.
There is no religious significance attached to Chaharshanbeh Soori and it serves as a cultural festival for Persian people: Persian Jews, Muslims, Persian Armenians, Kurds, and Zoroastrians, as well as for Azeri peoples. Indeed this celebration, in particular the significant role of fire, is likely to hail from Zoroastrianism.
Another tradition of this day is to make special Ajeel, or mixed nuts and berries. People wear disguises and go door to door knocking on doors as similar to Trick-or-treating. Receiving of the Ajeel is customary, as is receiving of a bucket of water.
Photo by The Third Oculus
Ancient Iranians celebrated the last 5 days of the year in their annual obligation feast of all souls, Hamaspathmaedaya (Farvardigan or popularly Forodigan). They believed Faravahar, the guardian angels for humans and also the spirits of dead would come back for reunion. There are the seven Amesha Spenta, that are represented as Haftseen or literally the seven S. These spirits were entertained as honored guests in their old homes, and were bidden a formal ritual farewell at the dawn of the New Year. The festival also coincided with festivals celebrating the creation of fire and humans. In Sassanid period the festival was divided into two distinct pentads, known as the lesser and the greater Pentad, or Panji as it is called today. Gradually the belief developed that the ‘Lesser Panji’ belonged to the souls of children and those who died without sin, whereas ‘Greater Panji’ was truly for all souls.