Community hopes to make Chaharshanbe Suri ceremony a Kingston mainstay

Kingston hosted its first official Chaharshanbe Suri celebration on Tuesday evening outside the Memorial Centre.

The event has been held privately on Queen’s University property for years, but has been absent for the last two years due to COVID restrictions.

This year, organizers Dr. Alireza Bakhshai and John Casnig worked hastily to expand the event and make it public in partnership with the City of Kingston.

The festival, which loosely translates to “the Eve of Red Wednesday” falls on the last Tuesday before the Spring Equinox, this year landing on the upcoming Sunday evening of March 20th.

The ceremony helps to mark the Persian New Year, or Nowruz, and is celebrated by millions throughout the world signifying cleansing away the past year so the new one can begin refreshed and renewed.

The festival originates from the Zoroastrianism religion, which predates both Christianity and Islam, and is celebrated by a number different cultures with Persian roots including many in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and some countries that used to be a part of the Soviet Union.

Throughout the event, attendees who signed a waiver to do so jumped through the three small bonfires lit.

Traditionally, crowds will repeat the phrase “Zardi-ye man az toh, sorkhi-ye toh az man!”, which translates to something along the lines of “give me your red colour and take back my sickly yellow.”

Dr. Alizera Bakhshai, a professor of electrical engineering at Queen’s and the primary organizer of this event, hopes the festival can continue to grow and further become a multicultural event.

Dr. Bakhshai says he thinks if it becomes an annual event in partnership with the city that it could see people travelling to Kingston in order to celebrate.

“if we could have it fixed that we make sure it will happen for sure,” Dr. Bakhshai said.

“I’m sure that people from other parts of Ontario they will join us, it’s very good for the city.”

Several young children were at Tuesday’s ceremony, marking their first experience of Chaharshanbe Suri.

Dr. Bakhshai says ultimately he loves to make sure the event is put on because the it helps to build a stronger sense of community.

“It makes them happy,” Dr. Bakhshai said.

“Most of the people who come together they never see each other but in a place like this, so they get familiar with each other, going to their house, visiting each other.”

He adds that with the success of this year’s public event, he hopes next year to host 1000 people at Chaharshanbe Suri.