There is a picture of us from the first Persian New Year we were in Halifax, many, many, many years ago. We are sitting round a sofreh, a length of traditional Iranian plastic spread on the floor. A bunch of traditional food dots the sofreh (there is no sabzi-polo -herbed rice- though, I loath that green nauseous stuff). In those days, we still ate sitting on the floor. My family is turned away from the food, facing the camera, held by me. My children are unbelievably small. My brother’s eyes are wide and sad, my husband’s are wide and empty. No-one, not even the children, is smiling, even though it is Nowruz and we are about to eat a bunch of delicious food. We were all heart-sick.
In retrospect, that was perhaps one of the hardest years of my life, though I remember a few months later sitting on a warm sunny hill overlooking the ocean in Point Pleasant Park, my children nuzzling me, and feeling happy and calm.
A couple of Nowruzes ago, I celebrated the New year like all immigrant Iranians do: I partook in university bash by the Iranian student society, the kids ran and danced, my colleagues came, and we gossiped with a couple of good Iranian friends.
This year, it was just me and my kids. No more Iranian friends or family. I couldn’t even be bothered telling them about Nowruz and the haft-sin and all that jazz. Why bother? If I don’t have anyone in particular with whom I want to celebrate, why should I celebrate at all? Why should I make my children feel they are missing something more, something strange and not-quite-cool?
As it so happened- I had already booked a babysitter as I had wanted to go to a lecture that evening, but that was cancelled. The children were so excited about spending an evening with the babysitter who was also an old friend, that I didn’t have the heart to cancel her. So I went swimming instead. Swimming laps for an hour, then a long hot shower and then a session in the sauna, such as I have not enjoyed for long time. This was my New Year celebration. One of the best.