One thing I absolutely love about this area is there is so much to do, as I’ve said in the past we have mountains, beaches, the city, museums, shopping and concert halls you name it – we’ve got it. But every now and then, we veer off the ‘French’ way of life and become just a little bit “Middle Eastern”!
I’ve been married for the last 36 years, quite amazingly to the same man! He’s from Iran, having said that he’s spent more time in the UK and France than his home country and so he has more European habits than Iranian. I won’t do all the gushing about the Persians, suffice to say that if you know one, you’ll know what I mean when I say they are an incredibly friendly, hospitable and proud lot!
Iranian New Year is looming! It falls every year on the first day of spring, which makes sense really, a new beginning. It’s called Nowruz (Now meaning New and Ruz meaning Day.)
Even though I’ve been married to an Iranian for so many years, I can’t claim to be an expert on all the intricacies of the culture but I do know a little. However, last week I experienced a new celebration, we celebrated The Fire Festival, called Chahar Shanbeh Suri (Red Wednesday).
The festival dates back to at least 1700 BC during the early Zorastrian Era (one of the oldest surviving religions). It takes place on the last Wednesday of the Persian year. It’s a evening of celebration and enlightenment, friends and family gather to celebrate. Bonfires are lit and young and old jump over the lit bonfires shouting,”Sorkhi ye to az man, Zardi ye man be to.” Which roughly translated means “Give me your lovely red glow and I’ll give you my sickly colour.” Well something like that! Here in Montpellier there are quite a few Iranians and so every year they get together on the beach and build bonfires and celebrate the Chahar Shanbeh Suri. (All of this information I’ve gleaned from friends, family and Wikipedia!)
It was a lovely evening, we set off from the house with our other Persian friends and made our way to the beach, the boot of the car full of unwanted pieces of wood and the obligatory, dead, Christmas tree which added flames to the already brightly burning fires, 7 in all, one for each day of the week. It was a lovely evening and not at all cold, we had a packed a picnic, some goodies and a bottle of something French just in case the fires didn’t keep us warm enough. (Well, it would be a shame not to!) The moon which was on the horizon when we arrived, was pale and watery as the evening progressed, the moon rose in the sky and became brighter and brighter, throwing reflections across the sea to the beach, it was truly beautiful. I’m afraid my iPhone photos don’t do it justice!
We duly jumped over the 7 fires, asking that the red glow be ours. Don’t panic the fires aren’t big, (not like November the 5th fires in the UK). Although I must say the last one was a little larger than the others and I did balk a little, thinking I may just singe the hems of my jeans. It was great fun, we chatted with people that we’d never met before, we shared our wine and others shared what they had bought with them, an evening of partaking and freindship.
At about 11pm my friend and I had to go and get something from the car, we left the beach and went to the carpark, found a bench by the side of the road and sat for a while watching the moon and listening to the waves crashing on the beach in the distance when ‘Whoosh’! “What the heck was that?” ‘Whoosh’ again, as we followed the sound we realised that two men had just whizzed by on inline skates, at a rate of knots! A couple of seconds later a third, they zoomed up the road, to the roundabout and zoomed back towards us! One of the chaps stopped to say good evening and have a chat, he set off a little while later to catch up with his friends who’d zipped off into the night! It really is something that a total stranger should stop for a natter at 11pm, he just wanted to say hi and bye. His name was Christophe!
We returned to the beach and huddle together, keeping warm by the now, glowing embers. We returned home and as I lay my head on my pillow, I was glowing, I felt so happy. It wasn’t a French evening but it was a very special evening.