first_img 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! VAN NUYS — Thousands of Iranian-Americans celebrated the final day of Persian New Year festivities Sunday at Anthony C. Beilenson Park with a massive outdoor feast, dancing and music to bring good fortune in the coming year. “On the 13th day after the first day of spring, the Persian people get together to celebrate outdoors,” said Majid Dabiri of Granada Hills. “It has to be outdoors; otherwise you have bad luck.” “That’s right, to keep bad luck away,” echoed his wife, Azie. In what has become one of the largest Iranian-American celebrations in Southern California, a vibrant crowd of about 20,000 commemorated the end of Nowruz – the Persian New Year. Nowruz is celebrated on the 13th day of the new year, which began March 20 in Southern California. Persians celebrated in the 3,000-year-old sunrise-to-sundown tradition of Sizdeh-Bedar, marking life and renewal. For some, the celebration also included throwing grass shoots, called Sabzeh, into the waters of Lake Balboa. Iranian-Americans traditionally bring those grass shoots inside their homes to celebrate the period, but it is considered unlucky to keep them inside the home more than 13 days after the new year. For many, like Shohreh Karimi of Woodland Hills, Sunday was a great day to get together with family. “This is like Easter for us,” said Karimi. “We have 40 people here today, mostly relatives with their kids and some friends. It’s a joyous day, a celebration of hope for the coming year.” Many Iranians who had the resources settled in Southern California following the Iranian Revolution in 1979, when the Shah of Iran also fled the country. Absent from the day was any mention of current troubles in Iran and its increasingly icy relations with the United States and the main U.S. ally, Great Britain, 15 of whose sailors and marines were captured by Iran last month in the northern Persian Gulf. Instead, Bahin Bahari of Beverly Hills said, there was much for Persians to celebrate in the U.S., including the recent election of the first Iranian-American mayor of Beverly Hills. “This day is not about … about things in the news,” she said. “It’s to celebrate part of our new year. Nowruz is a very important day to us.” Organizers said they designed the celebration to emphasize the artistry and influence of Persian culture and language, with the day featuring folkloric dancing and music, games, children’s booths, vendor exhibits and all kinds of Persian food and delicacies. For a few like Mike Jetter of Valencia, the celebration continued a welcome introduction to the Persian culture. Jetter married Elie, an Iranian-American, 10 years ago, forming a mixed marriage that he acknowledges is unusual in his wife’s culture. “Love was the overriding factor,” said Jetter, who has two daughters with Elie. “It’s been unique and it’s broadened my understanding of all her culture. I’m always trying to learn as much as I can.” Among the games some men were playing was one similar to backgammon; one of the men said it dated back to 3000 B.C. Remnants of the game were found in the “Burnt City” (Shahr-e Sokhte) of Iran, he said. Although the celebration drew people from throughout Southern California, most were from the San Fernando Valley, which is home to an estimated 200,000 Iranian-Americans. Many are post-Iranian Revolution immigrants who settled in areas around Encino, Woodland Hills and Sherman Oaks in the early 1980s. “This is home now,” said Norami Karapet of Burbank, who attended the celebration with her sister Snobek. “But we also remember and celebrate where we came from.” — Tony Castro, (818) 713-3761tony.castro@dailynews.comlast_img read more