What better holiday to celebrate while living in Pakistan than…Persian New Year’s! (Otherwise known as the first day of spring.) I think Persian culture gets it right: starting the “new” year in icy frozen January doesn’t exactly engender the right feelings of growth and beginning. Spring does though, especially here in sunny Pakistan, where my orange tree is already covered in fragrant blossoms and little baby birds have suddenly appeared all over the hills.

Friends of mine here in Islamabad celebrated Persian New Year’s in style last weekend, ordering tons of food from the local Persian restaurant (Iran is right next door, so it’s really not that big of a surprise that there’s a good Persian restaurant in town) and having everyone over to stuff our faces and jump over fire. The goodies on the table all represent blessings and wishes for the new year: coins for prosperity, vinegar for wisdom, eggs for fertility, pomegranates for more fertility, an orange suspended in water to signify the earth suspended in the universe, dried sweet fruits for (I think?) love, rosewater for…something good that I can’t remember, a goldfish for something else that I can’t remember (but how cool that you can get goldfish in Pakistan!) A mirror to see yourself clearly, flowers, sumac (if I knew what that was I would tell you), and I’m sure I missed a few more. Anyway, it’s a lovely tradition and I enjoyed myself thoroughly.

The best part was jumping over the fire before dinner. Granted, it was really more like a “tray of candles,” but you really got that fire feeling. It is supposed to burn off all the old, bad feelings from last year and clear the way for the goodness ahead. It’s hard not to get on board with something like that. Celebrating the “new year” feels appropriate since in a few more days I will have reached the end of my first year living in Pakistan. The old season is ending, a new one is beginning, and I’m still here. Jumping through the fire indeed.

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