As the sun moves north across the celestial equator, marking the first day of spring, Iranian Americans are doing more than cracking double windows and a bottle of rosé. We flock to the homes of our elders to celebrate Nuarose, Iran’s largest national holiday. But this year, with my parents, grandparents, aunts and cousins who are all socially distant miles away from each other, I worried that celebrating the family holiday alone would do far less dancing for Gogosh and a lot more crying on my mom’s phone. .
Nussero, founded by the Zoroastrians thousands of years ago, Novoz continues for 13 days and nights, including a host of puzzling and ancient traditions – setting a table with seven objects starting with the letter S (Heftzin), jumping over an actual fire, smashing smoked fish and herbaceous rice. German equality is our new year, a chance to recalibrate and exhaust our lives. But I knew this year would be my first time celebrating Nuarose without my family (and the only time, if God will, I would celebrate at home with my partner). And because relatives are such an essential part of the holidays, I made sure to fly our health because dotted wifi will feel bleak, like pat on the shoulder instead of a much needed hug.
So on March 19th, I decided to compartmentalize all my anxieties – that my at-risk parents would catch the Koronov virus, which my grandparents would not understand, and instead focus my energy on positivity and positivity. I would do New Year’s justice, hell. And I would do it in panache.
I went to bed that night and felt a little less lonely, but I was aware of the fact that I was, in fact, alone.
In the morning of Eid I woke up feeling renewed. Traditionally, trainers are designed to donate new or purchased clothing to the event. But when I left my apartment to join my partner in his parents’ house, I hastily packed a chaotic bag containing mostly sweat, still naively believing that I would only be there for a week. The newest clothing item I brought with me was a t-shirt awarded in the direction of my freshman year. So I dipped into my partner’s closet and asked for one of his sponsored T-shirts – the closest thing I could find to “something new.”
Next, I practiced on another coveted custom: to clean the house. As part of my virus anxiety, and I’ve already gotten used to scrubbing surfaces with ease as I wash my hands (while singing “Happy Birthday” to boot). But this round of cleaning has hit another – I’ve reached the goal, washing away the sins of the previous year with each dish. As my knuckles increased and my floor, a slip hazard, I became completely present. The anxiety virus caused in the back of my mind feels as distant as my family. COVID-19? Never met her!
Another cornerstone of the Persian tradition is the gifts, gifts or money that the elders give directly to the children. Continuing with Edie’s spirit, I donated what I could to the relief of the virus. I checked with friends and family, especially those I knew who were at risk of losing their jobs or evacuated because of a virus-related shutdown. Although Edie is usually distributed among family members, taking this one step forward felt like an appropriate way to honor our practices while recognizing the long-term consequences of the epidemic.
At 4pm this afternoon, it’s time for an early Noirose dinner – the most crucial part of the New Year’s celebration. I sent a meeting invitation to my parents and grandmother in New York, my aunt and cousins in Iran, and my sister, who goes to school in Scotland, two days in advance. Of course, just hours before we were supposed to meet, I received three different messages from family members asking “What is zoom?” Asking us to move to FaceTime.
While blasting Persian pop music, I put on a full face of makeup, poured myself an exaggerated glass of wine, and dialed in for my first virtual holiday dinner.
“Aide Mole Mubarak!” My grandfather sang.
And just like that, I started to sob. All the anxious parts I embraced like stray strands of hair were not immediately eliminated. The sound of my 94-year-old grandfather’s voice echoing from the kitchen like a sound stage, my 89-year-old grandmother’s vision, all made up of lipstick and hair gel Although only undergoing surgery a week ago, I disassembled and blurred my brain. I felt guilty for abandoning them, even if I did it for their safety. They at the same time made me want to see them selfishly and reminded me of what I was socially distant from the start.
The rest of the day I spent wiping tears and refreshing my internet connection. Tears when my mother and aunt debated primary politics while my 20-year-old sister rolled her eyes (the screen delay made it funnier). Tears of frustration as Grandma stared blankly at me, unable to hear me through the computer, not even with her hearing aid. Then back to joy when her eyes finally lit up at the sight of my partner joining me on screen. I went to bed that night and felt a little less lonely, but I was aware of the fact that I was, in fact, alone.
Celebrating Nuarose while socially distant was not the fresh start I hoped it would be. I didn’t turn a new page in my quarantine diaries, I felt more hopeful about the future of our planet and less anxious about the fate of millions of people around the world, but I think it’s okay.
Usually we depend on our parents, our brothers who love us when we can find it for ourselves. I turn to mine during times of crisis, hope and stability. But perhaps the holiday spirit does not exert so much pressure as being “on fire”, but rather withdrawing pressure to derive purpose from Ganda when we are feeling. Our families are meant to let go of the choices we made in the past year, and accept us as we are new, without judgment. Why is it so hard for us to do it ourselves?
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