Persian Day Parade – Happy Norooz, folks – Part 1

New York is lousy about announcing some of its better events.  As I went to Church, I ran across a bunch of parade barricades on Madison Avenue.  There had been nothing about a parade in the Events Calendar, so I figured that it might be a protest.  Or maybe it was going to be something good… 

So, after Church I did a little searching and discovered that it was the annual (actually, the 5th Annual) Persian Day Parade.

No joke:  it’s one of my favorite parades in New York City.  Certainly in my top 5.  I couldn’t miss it.

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Last year was the first time I ever saw it and I actually had a “celebrity moment” when I was interviewed by a Persian TV crew who couldn’t figure out why this really, really white guy was watching the parade.  The reporter asked me if I knew what was going on and, smart aleck that I am, I started talking about how it was the Persian New Year which is celebrated at Springtime and how the Persian Empire stretches back thousands of years and Cyrus the Great and all that stuff.  I mystified that poor woman to no end.  If nothing else, my dicotomy between Persian and Iran (ancient versus modern) was really the point of my response and that this parade was a celebration of the ancient heritage that is one of Iran’s great treasures.

Besides, the Persian Day Parade is filled with dancing girls.  Not what you’d expect from modern Iran.

Here’s a picture of the dignitaries from near the beginning of the parade.

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This year, I struck up a long conversation with a Finnish couple visiting from Helsinki.  They had no idea of what was going on, but had left their hotel and found a big crowd.  They spotted me as an outsider, again, and thought I might know.  We had a long and terrific conversation.  Ultimately, New York City in late March is too cold for Finns!  (They’ve had their warmest winter in years whereas we’re having a cool one.)

The next picture is a bit of a mystery to me.  I think the women are carrying signs representing the months or seasons.  This is one of the few times that you saw Persian women who weren’t dancing.

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The next float shows one of the usual problems with other cultures:  spelling!  Is it Norooz or Nowruz?  I’ll just use both.  I don’t know what 1387 is, but I suspect that’s the Moslem year; which tends to contradict the Persian-centric angle of the parade.  In neither this nor last year’s parades was there a strictly Muslim celebration.  Instead, it was mostly Zoroastrian.

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Oh, and music.  Lots and lots of music.

And something very confusing.  This was very unexpected.  Take a look at these two characters and try to figure them out.  It took two pictures, but they were together (both dancing, of course).

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To my eye, they look like Santa and “Black Pete”.  Black Pete isn’t a well-known American character, but is a Dutch traditional Christmas character from the 1800s or so.  It makes no sense.  The only thing that is counter to it is that there is a character called “Rumi” who shows up quite a bit in the parade who looks very much like the Santa character.  But there’s no secondary character with any of them.  (In fact, there were often a bunch of Rumis at a time).

And then the Zoroastrians came with their slogan “Good thoughts, good words, and good deeds”.

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And then the dancing started.  Okay, it seemed to be entirely separate from the Zoroastrians, but the dancers were the next to show up.

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The music was from the float behind them.

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And then an old standby showed up:  the Mother Cabrini marching band.  These folks are in almost every parade in NYC.

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And then perhaps the strangest group in the parade.  I call them “the exercisers”.  Oh, and they dance, too.  Here are a couple of photos.

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As soon as they got past me, they went into pushups.

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And then…they DANCED!

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A float dedicated to the “Mofid Family” and their contrbution to Persian art and literature followed.

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And then a bunch of flag wavers.

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Big flag wavers.

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And handing out flags.

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One of the few political floats.  It says “Save Pasargad, Persian Gulf Forever, 50% of the Caspian Sea is OURS!”

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Well, Pasargad is an old Persian city, the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea are not connected (the Caspian is landlocked).  So, there are three issues raised and, other than proximity to Iran, I don’t know the connection.

The crowd this year was easily twice last year’s crowd and probably four times.  Last year, I stood for quite a while without anyone within ten feet of me.  This year, it was jammed.

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Next was the Aashtash Dance group from George Washington University.

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And then another float with even more dancers.

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Followed by…more dancing girls.

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Which was followed by a float with two dedications.  First, to “Yazd:  Pearl of the Desert” which is a very ancient Zoroastrian city in the middle of Iran.  And second, to the memory of Hassan Morshed.  There was a woman somberly sitting on the float.  I presume a family member, perhaps his widow?

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Followed by more dancers.

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And more dancers…

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Followed by a float…

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….which was followed by more dancing girls.

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And then another cycle of float and girls.  First, the Ferdosi who reminded me of Vikings but even the Vikings didn’t get that far (at least as far as I know).  The only Ferdosi I could find was a Persian poet, so I don’t know if they are related.

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And that cycle of float and dancers was followed by…another cycle!

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This is now an officially huge and long post.  To be continued tomorrow.  You’ll never guess what followed the group above.  Okay, more of the same!

-H

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11 Comments on “Persian Day Parade – Happy Norooz, folks – Part 1”

  1. Farzad Says:

    hahaaha…I love your comments!! Since I was in that group of people who you actually called “The exercisers!!!” I should tell you that you’re right in some ways…. This is a representation of the Traditional Sport or simply Persian Traditional Martial Arts…
    And no we weren’t dancing! We were trying to represent one of the exercises. If you had any questions feel free to let us know and we’ll explain more….
    Hope you enjoyed!
    Farzad.

  2. pouyan Says:

    haha yea i was also in “the excercisers” it was really hard for me to do all those things. but overall you were right about us i knew about the whole thing and it still looked strange to me hah. well im glad you enjoyed the parade its nice to see someone enjoy it even though there are not from iran. Hope you had fun
    Pouyan

  3. Famous Ankles Says:

    I’m glad you both enjoyed my comments and coverage of the parade. As I said, it is one of my favorites and perhaps the only downside I have with the whole thing is that so many other people were discovering it! Last year, when the crowd was much thinner, I felt like I was one of the few people who had discovered the pleasure of the Persian Day Parade. It’s ridiculous to complain about too many other viewers, of course, but that’s the only downside I saw to the whole thing. I had a great time.

    I wasn’t aware that the “exercisers” were showing off a Persian Martial Art. I presume the more formal name for it “Varzesh-e Pahlavani” (which I found in wikipedia). I noticed a picture in there that looks like the same club being carried in my pictures.

  4. عليرضا Says:

    مرسي
    اين رسم ها كه اينجا در حال فراموشي است. مگر اين كه شما اين رسوم زيبا ، باستاني و سنتي را زنده نگه داريد.
    دولتمردان امروز ايران حتي پشيزي براي اين رسوم ارزش و احترام قائل نيستند.

  5. Babali Says:

    hi,
    i am really happy to sea other people from other countries and cultures interested in Persians rich culture.
    those women who were carrying signs, are not representing months or seasons. actually in no’rooz ,which you may translate it as “new day”, Iranians celebrate their start of new year. in this day they put 7 things on an altar which they all start with letter “s” in farsi language. each of those represents a good idea and a good wish for coming year. what those women are carrying are the English and Persian(written in phonetic form) of those 7 things. if you search in wikipedia about no’rooz you may find some interesting information about those symbols.
    aw! and that poet ferdosi, that you said resembles vikings.:D:D actually he wrote a very very long poem, something like odyssey, with the name “shah name” or “The Book of Kings” this book is an epic about Iranian ancient kings, soldiers and heroes among them a virtuous guy called “Rostam” . those guys on the float are representing those soldiers not the poet himself.
    moreover in iran we have many ethnicities whom were different clothes and have different dances. this is why those people were all dancing:D:D:D. actually they were each representing an Iranian ethnic group e.g Lur, Kurd, Turk, balooch, fars and…
    by the way i thank you for spreading this rich culture of Persia. if you had any questions about persian culture please don’t hesitate and ask!;);)
    good luck.

  6. oneslip Says:

    سپاس گذارم که اینگونه فرهنگ پارسی را زنده نگه داشتید
    thank you

    • Famous Ankles Says:

      I used Google’s translation program to generate the following for the above:
      Posts touch that kept these cultures alive did Parsi

  7. Manni Says:

    Besyar aali bood. vaghean lezat bordam az didane in axha. omidvaram roozi betoonam maraseme bastaniman ra dar keshvare azize khodeman bargozar konim. ba sepas az shoma.

  8. Jose Says:

    all these thingsMaybe Separating is the only way left for you to suivvre and live your lifeMaybe you’ve reached a point that you can’t continue together any longerAnd Maybe don’t know “


  9. Buy RC Planes Online Australia

    Persian Day Parade – Happy Norooz, folks – Part 1 | Famous Ankles


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