By Krystyna von Henneberg Looking for a cure for the rainy-day blues? Join dozens of revelers at International House Davis on Saturday, March 4, from 5:30 to 9 p.m. for a traditional feast celebrating Nowruz, the Persian new year. Members of the International House Nowruz Celebration Planning Committee, including board PresidentPhyllis McCalla, fifth from left, show off an embroidered flag of Iran, a donation from visiting Humphrey Fellows Sameneh Seifollahi Aghmiuni (fourth from right) and Navid Ghajarnia (far right) of Tehran. Others pictured include I-House board members, staff and volunteers Lorrie Bortuzzo, Robert Blake, Laleh Rastegarzadeh, Susan Moore, Vinita Domier and Sanaz Ghanbari. Krystyna von Henneberg/Courtesy photo
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A fundraiser for I-House, the celebration includes a sit-down Persian dinner, Persian music and dance, a silent auction, a cultural quiz with prizes and children’s activities. The event will feature specialty food and drinks from the Tea List of Davis, the Crest Café of Sacramento and the Darioush Winery and Persian Tradition of Napa Valley. Nowruz is a 3,000-year-old festival that marks the vernal equinox and the arrival of spring. It is celebrated with symbols of life and rebirth, including the hyacinth and the goldfish, and marked with feasting, dance and gift-giving. A traditional Haft Seen table at a Nowruz celebration bears symbols of life and rebirth. Mandana Asadi/Wikipedia Commons photo
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Rooted in ancient Zoroastrian traditions, today Nowruz is a secular, family-friendly event celebrated by more than 300 million people of all faiths and nationalities the world over, from Iran to Turkey to Canada. Since 2009, Nowruz has been recognized by the United Nations as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, and in recent years, has been celebrated in the White House. This spring, the actual date of Nowruz falls on March 21, the day of the vernal equinox. But with final exams on the horizon for the UC Davis community, I-House has opted to celebrate early. The goal of the dinner is to bring community members together to share and make friends, in keeping with International House’s inclusive mission, while raising funds for the nonprofit’s educational and cultural outreach programs. “Davis is an international place, but neighbors don’t always know each other, or know about each other’s traditions,” says Lou Ziskind, interim executive director. “These events bring out the best in our community, and help create new networks and bonds. They also help us appreciate each other’s cultures and values.” Indeed, every year, I-House organizes a festive fundraising dinner on a different geographic theme to reach out to different parts of the community. Recent dinners have celebrated Brazil, India and China, and with one devoted to the African continent. All have been sold-out events, packed with people of all ages and nationalities, including young children. This year’s Nowruz event has attracted 30-plus volunteers, many of them Iranian-American, who have introduced I-House board members and staff to the elegant traditions integral to the Nowruz celebration. This includes the creation of a Haft Seen table, a traditional tabletop display featuring seven items symbolizing rebirth, hope and spring, each of which begins with the letter S in the Persian language. Volunteers come from all walks of life, and include students, professors, business owners, retirees and other community members. This year’s volunteer team includes visiting scholars Navid Ghajarnia and Samaneh Seifollahi Aghmiuni, both Iranian water resource engineers visiting UCD from Tehran. The husband-and-wife team are spending an academic year in the United States as part of the prestigious Humphrey Fellows Program, and have volunteered to support the purchase of books to help young children learn about the history and meaning of Nowruz at the event. I-House board President Phyllis McCalla is one of many who has rolled up her sleeves to prepare for these festivities. “For those who already observe this holiday, this celebration will be a chance to partake of familiar rituals and delights,” she noted. “And for those of you who are new to Nowruz, as I am, this is a chance to discover a truly joyful and optimistic tradition.” Either way, it’s a great opportunity to get to know your neighbors, support the work of International House, and come in from the rain. — Krystyna von Henneberg is a member of the International House Davis board of directors. --- --- ...