Azar Means Spring and Joy, Not Pain and Suffering – Sepehr

These last few years I have felt that I have been belonging less and less with the small group of friends that my family celebrates Norouz with. I have always dreaded the long hours they spend reading philosophical writing from famous intellectuals that have died a thousand years ago, which is part of the tradition. Having immigrated when I was 6 and not having attended school, I don’t understand a word they read, even though I am a fluent speaker. Sometimes, I have unsuccessfully tried to translate and decipher their eloquent nonsense in previous years, and it usually ended in comical failure. For example, last year my uncle was reading a particularly difficult passage, and I recognized one word- azar which means pain and suffering. Proud that I had understood the general flow of the poem, I loudly asked if the passage was about pain and suffering in front of everyone. This was answered by a flurry of puzzled and piteous stares and an awkward silence. My uncle said that it was actually about love, joy, and spring, because it is another meaning for the same word.
Because this is our first year in BC, the regular group of friends that we celebrate Norouz with weren’t present. Instead, my parents had bought tickets to a formal gathering, in which there would be 100 other people, nearly all of them being strangers to me. The people I knew were one of my father’s colleagues from back in Iran and his family who had recently immigrated here. The hall was the recreation centre inside a huge military base in Kitsilano having quite a few leather tables and chairs surrounding a small wooden dance floor. The DJ was hard at work preparing for the night. We were among the first families to arrive, and my father’s friend got there shortly after. I befriended my father’s friend’s son, Ali, and asked him if he knew anyone that would come. He said that most of the youth that would be present attended Pinetree and were familiar to him. Some of the awkwardness was lifted off of my shoulders. More and more people trickled in, including a few youth. Ali grinned abruptly, and then stood up, beckoning me to come with him too. Awkwardly, I stumbled after him. He introduced me to two lanky grade twelves, a pair of identical twins which I never learned to tell apart, and an athletic fellow that had immigrated the month before. We all clicked, and before I knew it, were playing foosball and telling jokes. I especially enjoyed Danial’s company, as he was on the road to becoming a professional soccer player in Iran, and proved to be a big a jokester as me. We all laughed until our stomachs ached, sharing embarrassing stories of our immigration. After a while, the older guys went to accompany some girls while we took to the dance floor, drunk on caffeine, life, and laughter.
It was a great night, a great celebration, and I really exercised my ethnic roots. I made many friends, and in general didn’t have a dreadful, lousy new year. Having rituals that you enjoy and carrying out those rituals with people you enjoy being with is the best way to appreciate your ethnic roots.

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