Kingston to hold its first official Chaharshanbe Suri celebration

Last Updated on March 16, 2022 by Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Kingston will host its first official fire jumping ceremony this Tuesday at Memorial Park.

Chaharshanbe Suri (loosely pronounced shab-e chahar shanbeh suri and meaning “the Eve of Red Wednesday”) is an ancient cultural-religious ceremony held before the first day of Spring by people of Iranian, Afghan, Kurdish or Azeri descent and in a number of different religious communities.

The celebratory festival takes place the Tuesday before Nowruz, which falls on the spring equinox (March 20 this year) and marks the end of the old year and beginning of the new one.

The festival has been held as a private event for about 15 years on Queen’s property, but this year it will be expanded and celebrated publicly, with 300 free tickets made available to the public.

John Casnig, an organizer of the event along with Queen’s professor Dr. Alireza Bakhshai, said as of Monday afternoon over 80% of tickets had already been claimed.

Casnig says planning for this event has been a whirlwind, with planning for the festival in a public capacity only beginning on February 25.

He said despite having to navigate around bureaucracy and changing COVID restrictions, city staff were enormously helpful in allowing this to take place.

“The way they worded their answers was constructive not destructive,” Casnig said.

“They were guiding me.”

Casnig, who has become a part of this tradition through working with international students at Queen’s, says the festival is complete with dancing and singing around the fires, with those who have signed the necessary waiver being encouraged to jump through the fire throughout the event.

He says that the festival is a welcoming environment that allows people to familiarize themselves with a Persian culture that has been almost “overwritten” by regimes like that in Iran, but has prevailed.

“The Iran of the news is not the real Iran,” Casnig said.

“It can’t be put down it’s a culture, it’s so old and it’s so written into people.”

Tickets and all food and drink being served at the event are free of charge, but donations are accepted to help cover the cost of the event with any excess funds being divided between the Integrated Care Hub and a children’s charity in Iran.

Any excess wood that has been donated and split for the fire jumping ceremony is also set to be donated to the ICH.

The entirety of the festival will take place from 5PM-10PM Tuesday.