With the arrival of spring on the North Shore, the Persian community anticipates the celebration of Nowruz, their New Year. The festivity typically spans 13 days, even though it occurs during the spring equinox, which is either on March 20 or 21. The first event will be West Vancouver’s annual Chaharshanbeh Suri – Ambleside’s Fire Festival on March 14, which includes live music performances, food, and fire jumping, setting the tone for the upcoming events.
The Polygon Gallery has organized an event on March 16, combining live performance, live readings, and edible food art, with an installation created by Iranian artist and writer Sahba Sad. This food-focused installation pays tribute to ‘Sofreh,’ a seasonal feast or spread. From March 15, the Museum of North Vancouver will display a traditional haft-seen ceremonial table to welcome the Roshana School series of events, which is a Persian immersion educational program for children that includes Roshana classes and workshops that teach language and culture through art and music.
The North Shore’s libraries offer both educational and celebratory opportunities for all ages. The North Vancouver City Library hosts an all-ages-friendly event on March 18, where guests can play backgammon, explore the library’s haft-seen table display, win prizes, and savor traditional Persian snacks. On the same day, the West Vancouver Memorial Library will present Farsi For Kids, a curated storytime with songs primarily delivered in Farsi, along with the library’s annual musical performances on March 22 and 23.
The current political climate in Iran casts a small solemn cloud over the annual celebrations. However, it provides an opportunity for education on the protests currently happening in Iran and worldwide. The North Vancouver district, city, and West Vancouver libraries have compiled a selection of resources that shed light on the situation.
Nowruz, like other cultural events such as Lunar New Year, offers an opportunity for immigrants and their families to experience their culture in their new home country. Moreover, it is a chance for their new neighbors to broaden their cultural knowledge. All events and festivities are open to all backgrounds, says City of North Vancouver Coun. Shervin Shahriari, who last year became the first Iranian-born Canadian in the province to be elected to council.
For those who see Nowruz as an invitation to champion and applaud Iranian music, art, and cuisine outside the special Nowruz events, opportunities abound. The West Vancouver Art Museum presents the exhibition Under the Shade of the Lotus Tree, highlighting the work of two local artists who were born and raised in Iran. Pari Azarm Motamedi and Rozita Moinishirazi’s paintings illustrate classic and modern Persian poetry and history, paying homage to the lotus tree, a representation of refuge and a metaphor for safety and recovery in Persian culture.
Lonsdale Avenue’s thriving strip of Persian restaurants, bakeries, and stores also provides many opportunities for edible celebration. Poyan Danesh, former BC Chef of the Year, believes that food is the easiest and most rewarding route for those who want to dip their toes into Iranian culture. On March 6, Danesh hosted an evening at North Vancouver’s Gilaneh Grill House, where local foodies were invited to learn about Persian culture while sampling a Danesh-cooked Persian meal. For most in attendance, it was their first foray into Iranian fare, and all left in high spirits – the chef included. Danesh said, “It brings me great pleasure to share the sweets with my non-Iranian friends and chefs and see their eyes light up. I’ll say this about the Iranian community: we love to share our food, and we love even more to share our experiences and culture.”