Fire Jumping – Chaharshanbeh Souri

California, Inspiration, Iran, Reviews, United States, World - other travel posts — By on March 17, 2010 5:55 AM

My mom taught me not to play with fire, but she never said I could not jump over it. So when my Persian friend invited me to go fire jumping, I said…WHY NOT?!

March 16th was Chaharshanbeh Souri, an ancient Zoroastrian tradition celebrated annually the Tuesday night preceding the Spring Equinox and the beginning of the Iranian New Year (Norouz). It is a cultural tradition transcending religion. On this night bonfires are lit in backyards, beaches and parks all over the world. Iranian friends and family gather together and jump over fire to throw away their sadness and ills, starting a New Year full of health and joy.
Bay Area Iranians came together in Berkeley for an event hosted by The Persian Center. The city closed the 2000 block of Durant Avenue for the festivities. Under the watchful eye of Berkeley Police and Fire Department, open fires were set up for the 3,000+ people who showed up to celebrate. DJs played and happy people danced in the streets eating Ash-e Resht-e, a tasty traditional noodle and bean soup, and giant chicken and beef kabab wraps. Iranians believe that wishes will come true on this night.

I had many questions for my Persian friend Lillian as I am always fascinated by foreign cultures especially those deep rooted in unique traditions. She is excited to share her favorite Persian tradition with her “white people”.

Lili’s beautiful face illuminated as she shared one of her first childhood memories. She was three years old celebrating Chaharshanbeh Souri, with her family and neighbors on the street of Tehran. No one had explained to her the significance of the day. She remembered her father scooping up her tiny body and tucked her snugly under his arm. I giggled at the image of a football sprouting big long spiral black curls. Everything about Lil is petite except her gorgeous head of thick black curls. Without warning, her father ran full speed toward the fire! Lili was terrified, confused, and screamed with the voice bigger than her body. With one giant leap they were flying high above the flames landing softly on the ground. Baby Lili was stunned, her big brown eyes filled with wonder as to what had just happened? While she didn’t understand why they had done it, jumping over fires in her daddy’s arms was actually pretty fun! She joined in the chorus of children around the world who pester their father to “DO IT AGAIN!”

The joyful memory elicits my friend’s signature happy bounce, in which she makes tiny jumps in delight seemingly holding the memory in her clasped hands.

She explains to her “white people”…when you jump over the fire you are suppose to say:
“Sorkhi-e to az man. Zardi-e man az to!”

The literal translation is:
“Give me your beautiful red color and take back my sickly pallor!”

Loosely translated, this means you want the fire to take your paleness, sickness and problems and in turn give you redness, warmth and energy.

As we all waited in line to jump over the fires, I felt the energy of the crowd and a sense of unity throughout the world. We are all very similar despite what differences we may have. We all wish for good health and happiness. We all desire to leave behind past troubles and start fresh with a clean slate. Imagine how different the world would be if we all agreed to only look forward and desired happiness and health for all mankind.

As I jumped over the fires, I focus on not tripping and I envisioned leaving my negative energy into the flames and taking positive energy from the fire.
Happy Norouz, to my Iranian friends and I hope all your fire wishes come true!
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  1. Ariel V says:


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  2. Ali M. says:

    Great post Kelly… you really captured the feeling of this great festival!

  3. Kelly says:

    thanks Ali! Looking forward to going again and eating more of your country’s yummy food : )

  4. Shelia McBrayer says:

    Kelly, you just never cease to amaze me. You have turned into such a beautiful, exciting young woman whom I am so very happy to know. Keep on keeping on and always stay true to yourself.

    Love you,

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