Iranians in Halifax celebrate ancient Persia's day of love
Sepandarmazgan celebrated with poetry, dance, food and drink
While many Haligonians will be celebrating Valentine's Day on Wednesday, others will wait a few extra days to celebrate a different day of love — Sepandarmazgan.
The ancient Persian day of love and Earth is celebrated by Iranians around the world on Feb. 24.
Many believe the celebration has its roots in the Sassanid era, a few hundred years before AD, when Zoroastrianism was the official religion in the area. The day is named after Sepandarmaz, a guardian angel who was believed to protect the Earth.
The Dalhousie Iranian Students Society (DISS) is celebrating the annual Iranian day of love, Earth and friendship with poetry, dance, food and drinks on Saturday.
Celebration of love and culture
"Valentine is such an international event, but you won't find an event that is specifically for Iranian, Arab or Turkish students that you can go to and just celebrate it the way you usually do back home," said Arshan Keyghobadi, a first-year student at Dalhousie University and the president of DISS.
Keyghobadi moved to Halifax from Iran in 2010, and that's when he first found out about Sepandarmazgan.
"Surprisingly enough, this event is better known outside of Iran and the only reason for that is because the government currently doesn't like to promote celebrations that include either drinking or a connection to the country's un-Islamic past," said Keyghobadi.
Nazanin Omidvar grew up in Iran learning about the celebration from family and friends. She said things have changed despite the government's effort to discourage ancient celebrations.
"The youth have more space and the families are getting more open-minded," said Omidvar, the vice-president of DISS.
Creating a safe place
Sepandarmazgan today is a modernized version of its ancient form, and shares many similarities with Valentine's Day.
"Nowadays everyone likes to be modernized in some way, but at the same time they want to hold onto some of the old unique cultures that they had for thousands of years," Keyghobadi said.
In Iran and other countries in the Middle East, premarital relationships aren't encouraged and many are kept secret, but Keyghobadi believes things are changing with the younger generation who are celebrating Sepandarmazgan in the West.
Omidvar said Halifax feels like a safer place to be in a relationship.
"Here you feel more comfortable. You can go out with your boyfriend or girlfriend and it's not like you are doing an illegal thing," said Omidvar.
The event will be held at the Sexton campus of Dalhousie University. Tickets are $5 or $10 dollars and are available at the door.