Chaharshanbeh Souri, Festival of Fire and Fire Jumping Festival are a few of the names used to refer to one of world’s ancient religious and cultural events. Iranians, Azerbaijanis, Afghans, Tajiks and Turks (Azeris living in Turkey) celebrate this day by lighting fires and jumping over them while chanting special phrases.
This occasion is celebrated every year on the last Wednesday of the year to mark the end of the year and hope for a bright new year. Wednesday in Farsi/Persian is “Chaharshanbeh”and that is why this day is called Chaharshanbeh Souri.
A lot has been said and written as to the roots and significance of Chaharshanbeh Souri. Some say the fire is symbolically meant to burn the evil and bring about good for the New Year. Religiously speaking, ancient Iranians were followers of Zoroaster. In Zoroastrianism, fire is one of the four sacred elements of nature. It is also the most purifying as it never gets polluted.
Traditionally Chaharshanbeh Souri also included another activity called “Ghashogh Zani” translated as spoon banging where people would go door to door in disguise and bang spoons on plates to ask for treats which is the eastern equivalent of Trick or Treat. This tradition of course if almost forgotten and not practiced in the modern Iran.
Nowadays, Chaharshanbeh Souri has become more of a fireworks and fire crackers festivals lightening the streets and squares of Iran with crowd of people singing and dancing until late at the night before the last Wednesday of the year.
Since this occasion falls on the last Wednesday of the year it is one of the closest occasions to the most important and popular event in the Iranian calendar that is Nowrouz. Therefore people usually tend to have more free time as many schools and offices are closed. They are also excited and happy about the New Year and would like to enjoy the heavenly spring weather especially in the central and southern states of Iran. These, all together, make Chaharshanbeh Souri one of the best occasions to visit the country before people get too busy with their new year’s preparation and family visits.