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Haji Firooz

One of the entertaining ceremonies on the closing days of the year which would bring joy to all was presence of Haji Firooz with his red embroidered costume and his special hat. He used to hold a timbrel in his one hand and play with the fingers of his other hand while singing and dancing. Sometimes he was accompanied by one or two people.

When Haji Firooz would arrive in the neighborhood, children would follow him in queues and would share happiness and dancing by singing specific rhythm:


Haji Firooze, snap                             

He is once a year, snap

It is just today, snap

I won’t snap, snap

If I snap here my sweetheart would complain

If I snap there my sweetheart would complain

Everywhere I snap my sweetheart would complain

The same place my sweetheart resides

After signing and dancing Haji Firooz would be given some money. This custom was common in some parts of Mazandaran up to the past thirty years but has gradually become obsolete.


Aaroos Goleh

“Aaroos Goleh” or Aroosi Goleh is among traditional festivities performed prior to Nowrooz (New Year) in west of Mazandaran Province and east of Gilan Province.

The main performers are the “Ghool” (ogre), Pir Baboo (the old man) and Naaz Khanoom (the lady). This group would perform attractive plays for the public during Nowrooz or before it. Unfortunately, these festivities, like many other old traditions, are being forgotten.

Aaroos Goleh performance has its roots in dramatic traditions of ancient myths relevant to the beginning of spring time in which symbols of the old and new year conflict with each other. This group would usually appear a few days after the performance of Nowrooz Khans (annunciators).

The group would start their program by playing in every house where they would be given rice, eggs, cookies and even money as gifts. Ghool and Pir Baboo are both in love with Aroos. Ghool is the symbol of winter and darkness while Pir Baboo is the symbol of farming and intends to present Aroos of flowers (spring) to the people and the nature.

Ghool and Pir Baboo would dance with each other. Ghool would rush to Aroos while dancing. From the gestures of Aroos it is clear that she is fed up with the winter monster. Then, Pir Baboo would stop the monster and prevent him from approaching Aroos. Ghool would turn his face angrily and attack Pir Baboo. Pir Baboo would seek refuge with the people and in the meantime would make faces in order to amuse the audience.

Finally, the Ghool would become tired as a result of resistance of Pir Baboo and Aroos. Therefore, with repetition of the performance and movements that are made by the performers spontaneously people would spend a good day. This group would perform the play in every house and many would invite them to their homes and at the end, would give them tips (including money, rice, eggs…).


Song of Aroos Goleh

The monster would knock at the door and ask the landlord to come out of the house. After exchanging a few sentences, he would say: O landlord come out; your dog would bite me; I would kick it to death; I would be accused of murder; O landlord come out; we have brought Aroos Goleh; we have brought the dearest one; landlord she is not for you; she is for your son; we brought her from a long distant; we brought her with force.


Nowrooz Khani

What is understood from the remaining documents is that Nowrooz Khani (announcing arrival of the New Year) had an old and deep-rooted background as ancient as Nowrooz itself. “Nowrooz Khani” is the ceremony prior to the New Year. Nowrooz Khani which is still practiced in parts of the country, especially in northern areas, is a memorial of the songs which were common in the pre-Islamic era.

There is no record available on shaping or the time of emergence of “Nowrooz Khani” due to lack of registration in cultural sources and documents but as it is obvious in the lyrics of “Nowrooz Khani” this tradition has its historical roots in the culture of people of Mazandaran. In old days, Nowrooz was a totally popular festivity and people would pay its costs. For this reason, some by singing would herald approach of Nowrooz and receive gifts instead. The ceremony was such that a few days prior to Nowrooz royal musicians would patrol in the city and through music informed the public of arrival of Nowrooz and collected money for the New Year.

In Kandeloos village of Kojoor, one month before Nowrooz, shepherds and cattle breeders would go to the doors at night and would herald arrival of spring which means revival of the nature and liberation from hardships of the winter. The shepherds and cattle breeders would take a bell in their hands and by shaking it and making noises would enter the village. In front of each door they would sing a special song, poems that were composed on the occasion of arrival of Nowrooz and ask the landlord for a gift.

Nowrooz Khan used to carry a lamp, a stick and a green leaf as a symbol of blessing and fertility of land, the stick was a symbol of reliance and self-defense against dogs safeguarding the house and the cattle, and the lamp was a symbol of brightness and arrival of spring and sunshine. The landlord or the landlady would present some gifts to the performer of Nowrooz Khani such as sugar, rice, money, etc. and Nowrooz Khan would present them with a branch of box trees. They would then plant the branch of box tree in their rice nursery and believed that the nursery would become more fertile.

People in Amol and Noor believe that box tree is superior and should not be cut off. Performers of Nowrooz Khani in their songs would describe their living status and even their addresses and how they spend their life and would ask for their tip which would be fixed in accordance with the financial status of the landlord.

It should be noted that as most Nowrooz Khani performers were native people they had enough knowledge about financial status of the landlord and would ask him accordingly. Nowrooz Khani would be concluded by remembering the prophet and the imams and reading relevant prayers. With conversion of Iranians to Islam, performers of Nowrooz Khani made items compatible and coordinated with the new beliefs of the people of our country.


House Cleaning, Washing Carpets, Bed Sheets

People of Mazandaran, like all other Iranians throughout the country as well as those living abroad, start cleaning their homes to welcome spring as of mid-February. On the threshold of the evolution of the nature they would become energetic to clean the house and remove dust and welcome Nowrooz festivity with regard to their own ceremonies. Their first job is cleaning the house and washing the carpets, curtains, bed sheets and blankets. In the past, women used to take all the things which should be washed to the 'Telaar' river and make them clean and bring them back to the house. They would then spread the bed under the sunlight in order to let the odor of the winter moisture be removed.


New Year Edibles

After the above-mentioned preparations, the housewife should think of preparing some edibles during the New Year holiday. A few days prior to the New Year, they would soak a large amount of rice and after washing it carefully, they would let it get partially dried. They would then make flour out of the rice with the help of quern. That rice flour is called 'Dankoo'.

After giving the mill owner's share of the 'Dankoo', they would return home. Dankoo would then be roasted mildly on heat to make 'halva' by mixing with sugar powder and cow oil. Before the size of halva was as big as a brick! Meanwhile, with the rice flour they used to make 'Komaj'. Komaj is a round loaf of bread made of rice flour, milk and eggs. Usually women would cook the bread after baking the normal bread for the household.

They would put the paste of Komaj on the oven and would cover it with a metal sheet and put glowing coal over it which would bake the cake. Among other edibles of the New Year reference could be made to 'Dokhtar Daneh' which is made of rice cooked and dried in the harsh summer sun. Dried rice would be mixed with hot oil and would immediately puff. They would be put into a dish and honey or persimmon paste would be spread over it.

Small oven bread is another stuff which is made for the New Year. It is made of wheat flour, eggs, sugar and oil and is baked by women in the oven and is put on table linen of Nowrooz. Preparing colorful eggs is another engagement of housewives for the New Year holiday. In old times women used to cook nettle seeds in water and would then place eggs and boil them which would take a natural green color. Also, they would draw different shapes on the eggs.

Nowadays all these customs are common in Mazandaran but are performed in different ways. For example, not all people would go to 'Dang-e Sar' for making rice flour rather they have their small electric mills at home to make rice flour, although in some areas, such as 'Khaje Kela' there is 'Zir-Ab-e Dang-e Sar' where people from all neighborhoods would go there to make rice flour. The rice flour of 'Dange-e Sar' has still priority over other products. Also, for coloring the eggs they use chemical dyes and put Komaj in their gas oven. Among very tasty sweets of Nowrooz in Mazandaran one is 'Ab Dandan' which is made of very soft rice flour, sugar powder and butter. 'Ab Dandan' is cooked in gas oven and has a long record.


Chahar Shanbeh Soori

The night before the last Wednesday of the year is time for jumping over fire which has been common in Mazandaran since old times. 'Soori' means redness and setting fire on the closing days of the winter is tantamount to making the world warm and spelling out frustration and depression.

According to Professor Mehrdad Bahar, perhaps its 'Chahar' refers to the four seasons of the year. Chahar-Shanbe Soori became a common practice in Iran after the advent of Islam. The ceremony starts on Tuesday afternoon before it gets dark and at homes or in alleys and with the help of neighbors seven piles of fires would be set up. Young and old would jump over it and would shout “My yellow color for you, your red color for me”. They believe jumping over fire would remove pain and sickness out of the body and would replace it with happiness and health.


Taking Bath on the Day of ‘Arafa

It is customary in Mazandaran that the young and old should take a bath on the Day of ‘Arafa as they believe washing on that day would spell pain, sorrow and sickness out of human body. They also believe that being clean by the time of the change of the year would usher a good year free from any pollution. Meanwhile, prior to the New Year they should apply henna on their hands and feet as it was considered a blessing practice.


Haft-Sin Table Linen

The Haft-Sin table linen is part of the detailed Nowrooz table linen in Mazandaran. Samanu is not an old item and is not usually baked by Mazandarani women but is placed beside a red fish, mirror, the holy Quran, grass, coins, vinegar, sea-buckthorn, garlic, apple, sumac and a bowl of water in which an orange is placed and people believe that at the turn of the year the orange would start turning around, showing the turn of the earth.


'Soo Choo' of the New Year

Since old times the people of Mazandaran would mix a piece of cloth with wax and oil and wrap it around a piece of wood and make a torch and light it up and put it on their gates and their balconies. Most people would light up candles and place it on the table spread preparing for the New Year.


New Year Eve Rice and 50-Dinar Coins

Since the ancient time on the New Year Eve the housewife used to behead a chicken, a rooster, a goose or a duck on the occasion. Usually a rooster had priority over other poultries. The food was 'Tah-Chin-Polo' (chicken-stuffed rice). However, recently rice and fish have replaced the tasty old Tah-Chin-Polo. Those who are committed to killing some animal and shedding blood on the New Year Eve would still prefer Tah-Chin-Polo. Furthermore, in the past people used to put two 50-Dinar coins within the rice and at the time of serving the food those who got the coins in their plates would be expected to have a prosperous year.


Shooting on the New Year Eve

Just at the turn of the New Year shootings could be heard from different corners of cities and villages in Mazandaran and those who have no access to television or radio sets would understand that the New Year has started. The philosophy behind the shooting is that people believe that the New Year is captivated by the old year and people rush to help the New Year to be liberated.


New Year Visits

After the start of the New Year, first they would go to visit grandparents and those who have recently lost a dear member. The bride of each family, in company of her spouse and children, would first go to pay respect to parents of her husband and then would visit her own parents. People would usually go to visit their relatives collectively. Moments after the New Year, they would gather in the house of the eldest member of the family and from there would depart for visiting other members. Their number would gradually increase. Then they would make arrangement for the lunch reception in the house of the one whose turn has come up to give the lunch. Thus, the housewife would make the required preparations. They would go to the house of each member of the family where they would be served with a number of colored eggs or perhaps a few slices of halva and “ab-dandan” (a kind of cookies). Usually, the visits are short and guests would soon say goodbye. At the end of the day, they would go to the local prayer site or outside the city and divide what they have received or two people together would play “egg war”.


Merghene Jangi (War of Eggs)

One of the entertainments of Nowrooz is the war of eggs. In this game which keeps children, young adults and even old men busy, one person would keep a boiled egg in his hand so that only its head would be visible. Then the second person would blow a strike with the head of his egg on the head of the hidden egg. If the egg of one of the parties breaks, he would be the loser and should give his egg to the winner. Some people are very skillful in this game and in the afternoon would go home with a basket full of boiled eggs.


Sizdeh Bedar and Choice of Spouse

On the 13th day of Farvardin residents of each city and village, both old and young, would take their lunch, sweets, nuts and the grass of their Haft-Sin table linen and would go to the suburbs either on foot or by car. They would spend the last day of the New Year holidays by the nature and beside wild flowers. They would put the grass on the flowing river or would throw it high on the hills.

Among entertainments one is suspending a swing with 'Mamineh' or 'Barband' (a type of rope woven by wool). At present, 'Mamineh' and 'Barbad' have been replaced by colorful plastic and cotton ropes. In the past people would go out on Sizdeh Bedar in groups, including grandfather and grandmother, uncles, aunts and other members of the family. When one was swinging another one would hit his feet with a stick and say: 'Noom-e Noomzeh!', that is to say name your fiancé.

By doing so he meant to force the young man to name a girl from among the relatives. He would be hit on his feet until the time he would confess and say the name of his future spouse. Many marriages originate from swinging on Sizdeh Bedar. Today this tradition is obsolete and those wishing to marry would suffice to knotting the grass.