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North Shore businesses prepare for the bustle of Nowruz

The sizable Persian population in North Vancouver and West Van celebrates the coming of spring with Nowruz celebrations

Spring is gradually and steadily arriving, and as cherry blossoms emerge, they signify the approach of the Persian New Year: Nowruz.

In the heart of Central Lonsdale in North Vancouver, amidst the hustle and bustle of people, Persian businesses and the community will be ready to welcome Nowruz. It’s a celebration that can connect people from all walks of life, according to Amir Hosh, owner of Ayoub’s Dry Fruits and Nuts.

“Non-Iranian businesses celebrating Nowruz, we should embrace it,” he said. Hosh migrated to Canada about 20 years ago with his family and studied business at Simon Fraser University. They opened the first branch of the business on Lonsdale Avenue in 2009.

In Iran, dried fruits and nuts have a wide market, and these products are often used in celebrating Nowruz and welcoming guests.

“We would try to bring a little bit of Iranian culture and introduce it to the customers, and it’s been successful,” Hosh said. “Many of our customers are not Iranian, we try to create a cultural bridge.”

Currently Ayoub has seven branches across B.C., and during Nowruz they face a bustling time, said Hosh. People who celebrate Nowruz want to buy nuts and different sweets for their parties. “We set up a haft-seen in our store and try to bring a positive attitude, offer all the Persian goodies,” said Hosh. “More than just celebrating ourselves, we work to help others celebrate Nowruz.”

He believes that “we celebrate Nowruz to demonstrate our solidarity and to stay connected to our culture and history.”

A typical Nowruz celebration involves families cleaning their homes for the new season, displaying decorative items called haft-seen that symbolize life, growth, and prosperity, family gatherings in the spring, and visiting friends.

The ancient history of Iran

“In recent years, the books of the Divan of Hafez and Shahnameh by Ferdowsi have been highly welcomed, and they are often placed on the haft-seen table,” said Bahman Sahami (Nima), the owner of Nima, the oldest Persian bookstore in the Vancouver area. His North Vancouver store opened in 1992.

He emphasized that “the demand for these books indicates that the Iranian diaspora in the North Shore has become more interested in the ancient history of Iran and its culture, which has roots dating back thousands of years.”

Nowruz originated in the Persian religion of Zoroastrianism and is celebrated by millions across various regions.

A mutual Business Atmosphere

Near the bookstore, a woman behind the showcase of a jewelry gallery was carefully arranging treasures, paying attention to detail.

Zohreh Parsaeian, the manager of Hasti Jewelry, migrated to Canada seven years ago and established the gallery five years ago in North Vancouver. Nearly a year ago, the gallery relocated to the heart of Central Lonsdale.

“We set up haft-seen table like in previous years during Nowruz,” she said. “The atmosphere of Nowruz among Iranian business here is very similar to what happens in Iran. The diaspora celebrates Nowruz and aims to keep it for the next generation growing up in Canada.”

Presenting is a popular tradition among Iranian people during Nowruz, she said, adding that “given the economic situation, we don’t anticipate good sales during the days of Nowruz.”

In the larger Lower Mainland, approximately 80,000 to 90,000 individuals are identified as Iranian.

Nowruz celebration in schools

Bahram Deshmeh, a software application developer, migrated four years ago and currently resides in the Ambleside neighbourhood of West Vancouver with his wife and son. For the Iranian community in the Vancouver area, Deshmeh observes that celebrating Nowruz often means gathering with close friends, keeping the spirit of Nowruz alive despite being away from family.

Their son is studying in Grade 6 at one of West Vancouver’s schools.

“I find it interesting that the school celebrates Nowruz and Chinese New Year alongside Christmas, Deshmeh said. “Celebrating Nowruz at school has become very important for my son.”

He mentioned that a volunteer group of students has been working on celebrating Nowruz, and his son “wants to share Iranian culture and tradition with his classmates.”

In 2024, spring begins on March 19, 8:06 p.m., and at this time, Persian New Year will be celebrated by the diaspora.

If you have a friend who celebrates Nowruz, you can call them and say “Eyd Mobarak,” which in Persian means “Happy New Year.”

Hamid Jafari is a Vancouver-based freelance journalist who writes about the Iranian community in Canada, art, culture, and social media trends. His work for the North Shore News is supported by New Canadian Media. [email protected]