Saturday, April 02, 2005

Thirteenth outside

According to Waverly Fitzgerald, today is the Persian holiday, Sizdeh Bedar, or "Thirteenth outside." The Persian New Year falls on the spring equinox, and 13 days after that, on or around April 2, families leave their homes for the day to allow the spirits free run of the house in return for the spirits' leaving the family alone the rest of the year.

Fitzgerald writes:

The mandated day spent outdoors is similar to other spring holidays when people are encouraged to spend the day in the open air: Easter Monday and Maimuna. [Elizabeth] Luard [author of Sacred Food] describes people packing tables, chairs, carpets, cushions, silverware, plates, glasses, portable stoves and richly woven carpets and heading out to the hills. They take along a pot of golden rice pilaf, eggs for making omelets, yogurt which is cooled in the streams, freshly baked bread wrapped in cloth, sherbets, pastries and ices, plus coffee and tea to be made in the open air, using the fire and the samovar.

When dusk falls, the carpets are rolled out and people relax under the stars. Candles are lit, each one representing a death or a birth in the previous year. Luard writes: "Newlyweds look for portents—the call of a night-bird seven times repeated, seven white flowers shining under the moon, a piece of bread torn into seven pieces—that speak of a new candle to be lit, a new infant to be born, and doubly blessed if conceived under the dome of heaven."

I've been lazy about getting outside these days. It'd be good to have a spring ritual for just that. Maybe when the rains end....