Persian New Year celebrated at Sacred Heart

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Barbat player Hossein Behroozinia, left, and percussionist Pejman Hadadi performed at Sacred Heart University’s Persian New Year celebration on April 3. (Photo by Tracy Deer-Mirek)

Students, families and friends gathered at Sacred Heart University April 3 for a Persian New Year celebration. At the opening reception, guests nibbled on various traditional desserts such as almond cookies, baklava and rice cookies, along with a variety of teas.

Hennalyne Sedigh, a December 2012 graduate of the University of Hartford, sat on an orange armchair with an open book, practicing a passage in Farsi.

“We are celebrating the Persian New Year, which is the most scientifically accurate new year since it starts on the exact nanosecond the earth finishes its rotation around the sun,” she said. “It marks the first day of spring, and the holiday changes every year based on that timing.”

Later, on the stage at the Edgerton Center for the Performing Arts, Sedigh read the poem she had been practicing — a work by 12th-century Iranian poet Hafiz. Robin McCallister, professor of English at Sacred Heart, then repeated the reading in English, which he had translated himself. “Sit, drink with the wise. In the woods, every leaf tells its own story. Easy is the path if you know the way,” McCallister read.

Cima Sedigh, professor of education at Sacred Heart, organized the event.

“I believe peace is the world’s most urgent need and, as an educator, I try to explore the possibilities for peace building and effective conflict prevention,” she said. “I find Persian New Year to be a great festivity to unite people and to plant the seed of peace.”

Sedigh has organized events like this in the past, including “An Evening with Rumi, Poet of Peace” in 2007 and previous Persian New Year celebrations.

This year’s celebration also featured guest speaker Hadi Jorati from Yale University, who discussed the history and background of the Persian New Year. He explained that new year, or Nowruz, means new day.

“It is like a garment you wear every day, a new garment of green. In Iran, it is the celebration of spring and new life,” Jorati said. “The country of Iran is just a small corner of what was once the culture of Iran or Persia. When we talk of Nowruz, there are distinct segments and histories that have now been blended together as one.”

Jorati spoke of remembering his family traditions, where his father would bring out a very old Koran and a book of poetry, and they would sit around a ceremonial cloth waiting for the new year.

“Nowruz is about the humanity that we all share. We can celebrate together as the human race, regardless of any politics,” he said.

Sacred Heart biology student Carmen Ortega said she enjoyed the unique event.

“It’s a moving experience — to actually be able to listen to Professor Jorati from Yale come in and then be able to experience the culture first hand,” she said.

Renowned musicians Hossein Behroozinia and Pejman Hadadi performed Persian music of both traditional and folk varieties. Helen Margolnick, a student in Sedigh’s multicultural education class, said that she and her daughters particularly enjoyed the music.

“I was amazed by the instruments and was so glad to get a visual of such lovely music,” she said. “I was very impressed how only two men were able to make such vibrant music that expressed the Persian culture so well. I appreciated what the drummer said about bringing peace and unity in the world.”

People traveled far and wide to be part of the festivities. Payman Shamsollahi, a Seattle native on a business trip to Springfield, Mass., found out about the program and drove 90 minutes to Fairfield with three of his American colleagues to attend. “Cima did an excellent job introducing Persian culture to the outside world. The musical part was especially amazing,” he said.

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