Saturday, March 22, 2014

Celebrating Iranian new year in Belgium

Quirky Belgium

The Nowruz, or Persian New Year, festival includes jumping over fire while singing the traditional song Zardi-ye man az to, sorkhi-ye to az man, which literally translates to "My yellowness is yours, your redness is mine," with the figurative message "My pain/sickness for you (the fire), your strength (health) for me." The fire is believed to burn out all the fear (yellowness) in their spirit in preparation for the new year. Photos by John Weaver

Around the world, here in the Northern hemisphere at least, we celebrate the start of spring this week. And with spring comes optimism, or at least a looking forward to warmer, greener, longer days.

But for Iranians it’s even more than that – it’s Nowruz, the Persian New Year. 

Nowruz has been celebrated for over 3,000 years, and Tuesday I joined in on the yearly Brussels version of the festival with some good Iranian friends that live in Belgium.

The atmosphere was electric at the Abattior (Slaughterhouse) in Anderlecht: fire pits at the entrance for people to jump over (a staple of Nowruz tradition), DJs blasting Iranian dance tracks, bouncing castles for the kids, fire crackers, kebab stands, hookah smoking, even motocross jumping.

In short: it was a huge party. I got there around 6pm, had a mint tea and took some pictures of the place, and this guy’s back.

The Travelled Monkey - Nowruz, Brussels

People started coming in around 7pm, each one jumping over the fire, all wishing each other happy new year, taking pictures…

The Travelled Monkey - Nowruz, Brussels

And lighting fire crackers.

The Travelled Monkey - Nowruz, Brussels

When my friends arrived we had a kebab and I got a picture of Hajji Firuz, who was described to me as the Iranian Santa Claus, except that he carries a tambourine. Can you see the resemblance? 

The Travelled Monkey - Nowruz, Brussels

The Travelled Monkey - Nowruz, Brussels

I have a cold so I gave my lungs a break this year, but next year I’m going back and smoking a hookah. Scoot over guys!

The Travelled Monkey - Nowruz, Brussels


Rare traces of Iran’s lost underworld

Vintage pictures by Kaveh Golesta of 'The Citadel' - a ghettoized red-light district area of Tehran from before the revolution.


  1. I like the fact that I learn things about life in Belgium by reading your blog :)

    1. Thanks Jo! Yeah, even after so many years here there's still plenty to discover.