Nowruz and 13-Bedar

The 13-Bedar or Sizdah Bedar, “the Thirteenth [Day] out of doors”, is the name of a ceremony in Persian Culture. Sizdah is the Persian term for thirteen. Leaving the house on the Thirteenth Day of Farvardin, the first month of the Iranian Calendar and the last day of the ancient Nowruz , and joyfully spending the day outdoors have been a national tradition since ancient times in Iran. Sizdah Bedar that is for Getting rid of the Thirteenth!, has been possibly considered as a tradition because ancient Iranians believed the thirteen is an unlucky number, and everybody should get rid of the thirteen. Most of the times (Of course not this year 1390!) Sizdah Bedar coincides with the first day of April, which is known as April Fools’ Day in the Western Culture. Iranians has a special ancient tradition of “Dorogh Sizdah” or “The lie of Thirteen”. In fact, during Sizdah Bedar, some people follow the oldest prank-tradition in the world and play jokes on each other. This has possibly led many men and women to consider that the origin of the April Fools’ Day goes back to the Iranian tradition of Sizdah Bedar. In modern times Iranians head for parks, gardens or country sides, and enjoy their day together in a picnic. On Sizdah Bedar, many big cities in Iran look empty and unpopulated. Sizdeh Bedar gives Iranians a chance to participate a ceremony out in nature singing, dancing, performing many traditional activities, and enjoying the fresh smell of spring. One of the ancient traditions of Sizdah Bedar is the knotting of blades of grass by the young unmarried girls in the hope to marry soon! and expressing their wish and hope for good fortune in life and love. In the past, the young girls weave together fresh herbs, singing as they do so in a low voice: “Sizdah Bedar Saal-e Degar, Khaaneh-ye Showhar, Bacheh Beh Baghal”, that means: “Next Sizdah-Bedar, I hope to be in my husband’s home, and as a lady holding a baby!!” In addition to Iran, Sizdah Bedar is also among the festivals celebrated in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, India, and many other parts of the world.

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Nowadays, the young boys and girls usually dance and play traditional and modern games and sports. In fact, everyone seek to spend in the open, in orchard, field or garden, purely in pursuit of pleasure (picnicking, playing games, making music and the like, or just contentedly resting). The ancient Iranians loved joy and happiness and thought that the disappointment and the bad thoughts are coming from the Devil, Ahriman, and the celebrations Sizdah Bedar will cleanse all bad thoughts. Islam and the Islamic clergy, i.e. the Mullah, had and have serious conflicts with Sizdah Bedar and all joyful Iranian traditions. The Mullah even don’t use the name “Sizdah Bedar”, and call it “Nature Day”!!. But “Sizdah Bedar” is always “Sizdah Bedary, and all the main roads, main parks and garden, and all main jungles and mountains are very crowded in 13-Bedar. The traffic is really heavy in Sizdah Bedar, and its one of the main problem of the Sizdah Bedar in Iran. The people should wait some hours in the traffic. At the end of their picnics people throw away the Sabzeh (from the Haft Sinn ). The Sabzeh is supposed to have collected the sickness, pain and ill fate hiding on the path of the family throughout the coming year.

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History of 13-Bedar

Like the Iranian New Year, the ancient Nowruz, the tradition of Sizdah Bedar also traces back to the era of legendary king Jamshid who celebrated this outdoor festival together with his people, the Iranians. In fact, the essence of the Sizdah Bedar ceremonies is the enthusiasm to set up a family, lead a happy life and form friendship. By growing sprouts, ancient Iranians expressed their spirit for green environment and seek further divine blessings in the form of rain for their farmlands. Iranians believed that the Demon of Drought was defeated at midday of Sizdah Bedar. They used to sacrifice sheep and cook kebab in the open areas to celebrate victory of the Angel of Rain against the Demon of Drought. Sizdah Bedar has also its roots in the Zoroastrian belief that laughter and joy symbolize the throwing away of all bad thoughts. According to Zoroastrianism, the bad thoughts are coming from the Devil, Ahriman, and the celebrations of New Year and Sizdah Bedar will cleanse all bad thoughts. Avesta, the holy scripture of the Zoroastrian faith, recalls that all those who love purity were responsible for celebrating Sizdah Bedar to help the Angel of Goodness prevail over the earth in the struggle against the Evil and the Devil. Sizdah Berdar is reported to have been celebrated by the Iranians lived on the Iranian Plateau as far back as 536 BC. The people left their houses and went out to funerary places, where they would invite the spirits of their family departed to take pleasure as their guests in feasting and merry making.

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In Sizdah Bedar, the Iranians eat “Ajil”, “Ash Reshte” and other Iranian foods for Nowruz , like “Cholo Kebeb”, and “Ab-Goosht”, and many other modern and traditional Iranian foods . The Nowruz ceremonies end on the thirteenth day of the Fardavin, and the working days of the new year begins on the 14th day of the month.

For further reading:

[1] Iranica Encyclopedia
[2] Zarathusahtrian Assembly
[3] The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies

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