IN many cultures, the arrival of spring marks the start of a new year.
On the North Shore, the local Persian community is gearing up to celebrate the Iranian New Year, known as Norouz, on March 20, the spring equinox.
"It is very important for us to celebrate our heritage," says Nassreen Filsoof, founder and president of the Canadian Iranian Foundation, which is hosting two Norouz events this year. "We try and ask all different cultures to come and attend and to celebrate the true nature and the true spirit of multiculturalism in Canada."
On Sunday, March 10 the CIF is hosting its annual Spring and Norouz Festival at the Mickey McDougall Community Recreation Centre. The all-day event runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and features live music, a DJ, local and international folk dance, food and beverages and children's activities. Up to 5,000 people attend the free event each year.
"The only thing we are asking people to bring is a can of non-perishable food for the food bank," Filsoof says.
The CIF is also organizing the Norouz Gala: Iranian New Year Celebration on Saturday, March 23 at the Marriott Pinnacle Hotel in Vancouver from 6: 30 p.m. to 1 a.m.
The black-tie-optional event will feature live music, a DJ, a performance by the Pars National Ballet Group directed by Azita Sahebjam, stand-up comedy by Eslam Shams from Los Angeles, a buffet dinner and silent auction.
Tickets must be purchased by March 18 and are available at the foundation office, 145 West First St., North Vancouver, or at 604-6961121. Money raised at the gala will go to the CIF scholarship program, which assists immigrant students.
Meanwhile, the Iranian-Canadian Congress of Canada is hosting its annual fire jump event at Ambleside Park on Tuesday, March 19 from 6 to 11 p.m. Known as Charshanbeh Souri, the Fire Festival features singing, dancing and bonfire jumping.
The ICC is also holding a Festival of Nature, or Sizde-Bedar, on April 1, the 13th day of Norouz. Friends and family are invited to gather at Ambleside Park to socialize, dance, share food and practise other rituals.
Outside the public realm, many Iranian-Canadian families are preparing to ring in the new year at home with a decorated Haft Sin table setting, traditionally containing seven items starting with the letter S in the Persian alphabet.
"The family gets together and sits around that beautiful spread, which we call the Haft Sin, and they kiss each other and they say they love each other and they exchange presents and they have a special dinner," says Filsoof, who will be cooking up a traditional Norouz meal of rice, herbs and fish.