Nowruz: Persian New Year

Freer and Sackler Galleries Celebrate the Persian New Year
Family Day, March 7, Features Traditional Arts, Music, Food

For the second year, the Freer and Sackler galleries will mark the Persian New Year, known as "Nowruz," with traditional displays of the haft sin table, fire jumping, storytelling, live music, art making, delicious food and more. The Persian New Year formally begins March 20, the first day of spring, but the Freer and Sackler galleries will begin celebrating Sunday, March 7, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dating to 3,000 B.C.E., Nowruz is rooted in Zoroastrianism, the religion of Iran before Islam, and marks the vernal equinox, or the beginning of spring. Today, it is celebrated in Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asian countries and Lebanon.

"We are thrilled to host our second Nowruz event," said Marjan Adib, head of Strategy and Policy Implementation at the galleries. "It's a wonderful opportunity for families to gather from many different cultures, backgrounds and ages to celebrate the arrival of spring."

Storytelling by Xanthe Gresham and Surabhi Shah
At 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. in the Ripley Center's Discovery Theater, Xanthe Gresham performs "Persian Magic," bringing to life stories of ancient kings, heroes and villains from the Shahnama (book of Kings), Iran's national epic, which was completed by the poet Firdawsi in the year 1010. A lecturer in storytelling and drama at the University of East London, Gresham entertains young and old alike. Free tickets are required for Gresham and can be reserved in advance beginning at 10 a.m., Monday, Feb. 22, through www.ticketmaster.com.

At 12 and 2 p.m in the Freer Gallery, storyteller Surabhi Shah shares "Asian Stories of Rebirth." Her engaging style is inspired by a rarely-heard Indian tradition that weaves story with melodic verse.

Music: The Pejvak Ensemble, Directed by Behfar Bahadoran
Enjoy new music performed on traditional Persian instruments at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. in the Meyer Auditorium. The ensemble features Behfar Bahadoran on tar and setar, Faraz Minooei on santur, Pezhham Akhavass on tombak, Steve Bloom on percussion, and Shohreh Majd performing vocals. Free tickets are required for The Pejvak Ensemble and can be reserved in advance beginning 10 a.m., Monday, Feb. 22, through www.ticketmaster.com.

Booksigning: Najmieh Batmanglij
Acclaimed chef and author Najmieh Batmanglij signs copies of her many cookbooks, including Happy Nowruz: Cooking with Children to Celebrate the Persian New Year from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Sackler shop.

Haft Sin Tables
Haft sin tables, a traditional table display created during Nowruz, will feature the seven symbolic items that Iranian families traditionally use to honor the return of spring. The tables will be located in the Freer Gallery north corridor, Sackler pavilion and ImaginAsia classroom (Sackler sublevel 2).
 
Backgammon and Fire Jumping
Families will enjoy playing the ancient Persian board game backgammon, and for those who are new to the game, members of the Northern Virginia Backgammon Club will offer introductory lessons at 12 and 2 p.m. on Sackler sublevel 1. Also, cast off the troubles of the past year and celebrate the victory of light over darkness by jumping over an artificial fire in the Sackler Pavilion or ImaginAsia classroom on Sackler sublevel 2.

Greeting Cards and Fortunes for Children
Make a Nowruz greeting card and your fortune in a fun version of the Falnama (Book of Omens) in the ImaginAsia classroom on Sackler sublevel 2.

Video: Babak and Friends: A First Norooz
In this delightful 30-minute animated film, young Babak learns about Nowruz when his cousins arrive from Iran to celebrate the New Year. Continuous screenings will be offered in the ImaginAsia classroom on Sackler sublevel 2. 

Food from Johnny's Kabob and Mie N Yu
Johnny's Kabob will offer lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Ripley Center concourse. Snacks and tea will be available from Mie N Yu from 12 to 3 p.m. in the Freer courtyard (rain location: Freer south corridor)

For complete schedules, event locations and additional details on all Nowruz events, please visit the Nowruz website.

The Nowruz celebration is made possible with the support of the Ebrahimi Family Foundation.

The Freer Gallery of Art, located at 12th Street and Independence Avenue S.W., and the adjacent Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, located at 1050 Independence Avenue S.W., are on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day, except Dec. 25, and admission is free. The galleries are located near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines. For more information, the public may call (202) 633-1000 or visit the Web site: www.asia.si.edu.