Passing on Traditions: Across Generations and Cultures

Passing on Traditions: Across Generations and Cultures

by Diana Jarrar March 19, 2021

My husband, Borna, and I got married in 2016. Although our cultures seem similar (Borna is Persian and I'm Syrian), our traditions can be quite different.

While much of my upbringing was rooted in Arab-muslim traditions (although we didn't call it that), my husband's upbringing was secular and his family practices revolved around ancient Zoroastrianism. My husband and his family wouldn't quite articulate it that way either though. You see, when you leave your native home it becomes necessary to define things so you may explain them to others. To Borna and his family, celebrating Nowruz, the Persian new year, is simply what they do.

Nowruz is celebrated on the first day of Spring. Traditionally, the family gathers and bonds over lots of delicious food and sweets. Seven symbolic items are arranged for what's known as the "Haft Seen"; or Seven S's . Seven items are placed on the table, each item represents an element of spring and starts with the letter "S" in Farsi. These items are:

Sabzeh- or "greens" which are typically sprouted lentils or mung bean for example. This is the symbol of rebirth and GROWTH.

Samanu- this is a traditional Persian sweet pudding made of wheat. This is the symbol for power and STRENGTH.

Senjed- is a dried fruit typically known as russian olives. This symbolizes LOVE.

Serkeh- is white vinegar. This symbolizes PATIENCE.

Seeb- is apple. This is the symbol for BEAUTY.

Somaq- is the ever so popular and crimson-red spice made of dried fruits that have been ground up. This symbolizes sunrise or NEW beginnings.

Sekkeh (coins), Sonbol (hyacinth), and Sa'at (clock) are also sometimes used to decorate the table and hold their own power of symbolism. Coins for prosperity, hyacinth for the flowering of spring, and the clock representing the passage of time.

Other items that don't start with an "s" but are included to add richness and more meaning are painted eggs, a gold fish, tulips, a mirror, candles, and a book of wisdom (could be poetry, spiritual, or religious depending on the family's preference).

For me, learning about Borna's family traditions is a deeply connecting experience. I've been learning that you see what you believe. Feeling the symbolism of each element and radiating joy when being in the presence of family is the perfect way to welcome spring and all its' abundance.

I hope to continue the tradition of the Haft Seen with my own family someday. Meanwhile, I have all the badass women in Borna's family to show me the way. Cheers to tradition and welcome, Spring!

Diana Jarrar
Diana Jarrar


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