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Jasmin Darznik: Celebrating Persian New Year

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Persian New Year is celebrated this month, and Jasmin Darznik will mark the occasion by working magic with lentils, just like her grandmother did.


Every March when I was growing up, my grandmother grew sprouts for the Persian New Year.


In a life thousands of miles away from the home we'd left and still imagined we'd return to one day, my grandmother began No Rooz preparations with lentils.


Lentils were a staple in our home. We ate them layered in rice and in a thick, fragrant noodle soup called ash. But at this time of year, with my grandmother's quiet, daily ministrations, lentils turned into something else: a lush swatch of greens to grace the New Year's spread.


As a child I didn't quite understand the transformation as miraculous. Now it feels like a miracle indeed.



In Orwell's Roses, Rebecca Solnit shares the Etruscan word saeculum, which connotes the “span of time lived by the oldest person present on earth.” Another way to describe it is living memory, or the ways our lives touch the past through those we love and know.


Tracing a line from my grandmother's life to mine, my saeculum clocks in at just over a hundred years, connecting me not only to the past century but to Iran.


Rituals collapse those years, binding us to each other in the here and now.


I haven't always observed the rituals of the Persian New Year. Some years I've forgotten them altogether. At best it's a slapdash effort, a last-minute stop at the Iranian grocery store for a ten-dollar plate of pre-grown greens.


This year, a year of constant tumult in Iran, a year when I’ve never felt closer to the country of my birth, I’ll take better care. I'll soak lentils as my grandmother did. I'll place them by a window, water them, coax the green shoots, conjure hope and love and new beginnings.


With a Perspective, this is Jasmin Darznik.


Jasmin Darznik is a novelist, and professor and chair of the MFA Writing Program at California College of the Arts



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