03/24/2014 05:51 pm ET Updated May 24, 2014

Iranians Ignore Government Limits on Holiday

Last year, an American professor of Persian culture and civilization, William Royce, told me the story of his trip to Iran four decades ago, after graduating from Princeton. He recalled getting an invitation to a "Chaharshanbeh-Souri" ("Festive Wednesday") celebration, which he enthusiastically accepted. Once he showed up at dusk, however, there was no party. He was appalled to learn that Chaharshanbeh-Souri -- the celebration of the last Wednesday of the Persian year -- is actually observed on Tuesday night: Its festivities start at dusk by the fire and continue into the night.

Chaharshanbeh-Souri is an ancient tradition celebrating the past year and looking forward to the next. Iranians gather around lit bushes on this Tuesday evening, jumping over the fire in preparation to welcome the new Persian year, the first day of spring. While jumping over the fire, they ask the fire to take their "yellow" -- a symbol of fatigue of the year gone -- and present them with its "red" blaze in return, symbolizing the passion of a fresh start.

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This post was originally published on Al-Monitor.