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North Shore's Iranian community celebrates new year with fun virtual event

The North Shore’s Iranian community has celebrated one of its much-loved calendar events a little differently this year.

The North Shore’s Iranian community has celebrated one of its much-loved calendar events a little differently this year, holding an online Zoom gathering to mark Norouz.

In light of the continued COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, Nassreen Filsoof, president of the Canadian Iranian Foundation, said for the second year in a row the organization had put its annual Iranian new year events on hold. To mark the occasion this year, around 80 people from across Canada, the U.S., and Iran tuned in to a live video event on March 15, offering a show of music, dancing, speeches from community leaders, and a chance to share fond memories of past Norouz celebrations.

While there wasn’t any fire jumping, Filsoof said it was still “a very friendly and warm gathering.”

“It is very hard to have this kind of event online, but we somehow managed and gathered people together and celebrated the spirit of Norouz,” she said. “That was the only way we could do it.”

Norouz, also spelled nowruz, which falls on March 20, marks the beginning of the new year on the Iranian calendar.  “It starts exactly at the same time as spring equinox,” Filsoof  explained.

“It has a history of 3,000 years and not only Iranians, but lots of other countries celebrate it every year.”

Norouz is a 'celebration of nature'

She described the event as “a celebration of nature” that all could embrace. 

“It is a celebration of the rebirth of nature … and it brings a lot of beauty and colour and freshness to the world,” Filsoof said.

The organization has been active on the North Shore for the past 16 years and prior to the pandemic would always look forward to hosting big events to celebrate the Iranian new year, including a Norouz Festival, which would attract thousands, and a gala with up to 400 people to raise money for scholarships for students in need. 

“If they happened this year, it would have been the 12th year of our festival and 16 years of galas,” Filsoof said, adding that last year’s events organized at The Shipyards and the gala at the Marriott Pinnacle were both cancelled. “It is very sad that we are not able to do it, but we also understand why, and we respect COVID-19 pandemic protocol.”

Aside from the video gathering, Filsoof said members of the community would be having small Norouz celebrations with their own families and bubbles. She encouraged people who may be unfamiliar with the event to read a little about the history of Norouz, and to also enjoy a traditional meal of rice with herbs and fish.

The three North Shore municipalities have also cancelled events this year, including the Persian new year celebration in West Vancouver, which people flocked to for live music, fire jumping, food, and dance performances.

Elisia Seeber is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.