Fusion Reminder: More similarities than differences

Norooz event shows cultures have common ties that bind

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Members of the Iranian Community at Michigan Tech perform a traditional Persian dance during the Norooz celebration at Tech Sunday night.

HOUGHTON — Iranians and other residents of the Copper Country rang in the Persian New Year with music, dancing, food and humor Sunday night at Michigan Technological University.

The Persian New Year, or Norooz, falls on the first day of spring. It has been celebrated for more than 3,000 years, prior to the creation of the Roman calendar.

At an Iranian house, there will be nuts, fruits and pastries, said Azad Heidari, a member of the Iranian Community at Michigan Tech, which put on the event.

“Everyone’s house is open to you to join,” he said. “We accept guests, and there will be gifts and happiness and a lot of good stuff, because only good stuff happens during the Norooz.”

Fellow Iranian Community member Mahta Naziri Saeed walked the crowd through the elements of the traditional Haft-seen table. The table contains seven items which begin with the “seen” letter in Persian. It’s set up at the start of the new year and kept up for the next 13 days.

The items include coins, which symbolize wealth, and senjed, a dried fruit symbolizing love.

Emceeing the event was Tehran, an Iranian-American comedian from Los Angeles, who did stand-up between other performances.

He educated much of the crowd — and entertained those already in the know — about topics like fesenjan, an Iranian chicken stew with a delicious taste but an unfortunate appearance.

“Let me explain what it looks like — have you ever walked a dog?” he said.

He also poked fun at the hospitality custom of tarof, which he defined as “when Persian people offer you something you didn’t want in the first place, and then make you feel bad if you accept it too early.”

Having visited numerous Middle Eastern countries, he also rebutted the notion that Iranian women are made to walk behind the men.

“They walk by their side,” he said.

Ultimately, he said, the cultures have more similarities than differences. Some Persian language has also crossed over to English, such as the words “balcony,” “paradise” and “khaki.”

“There’s a lot of fusion we don’t realize happens all the time,” he said.

Iranian musician Sahba Motalliebi played Persian classical music, and one of her own compositions, on the tar, a lute-like string instrument. Persian music is based in improvisation, she said, and represents a flow between artist and audience.

Iranian students, including Saeed, performed a traditional dance. Later in the show, local dance group 47 North performed a routine fusing Western dance with Persian steps.

Tech student Arash Jamali, an Iranian, said the dinner is a great way to share their culture.

“I think that’s a great thing, to show the different parts of our country, especially the way people feel about women in our country,” he said.

It was a fantastic show, and educational, said Tech student Andrew Brown.

“It’s a New Year’s celebration, but it’s also like April Fools, and things of that nature,” he said. “It’s a lot of things packed into one holiday.”