It’s Time for a Picnic: The Tradition of Sizdah Bedar

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Tree with flowers

The weather outside may or may not reflect it, but Spring is here! Perhaps your sinuses can feel it, with the new blossoms outside? This is my favorite time of the year, like a bear coming out of hibernation, I feel excited with the end of winter behind us. I personally long for the warm weather and sunshine, which is probably why I love living in Southern California! And, if you are a reader of my blog, you know that the first day of Spring marks the first day of the Persian New Year, Noruz.

In previous posts, I have given you a brief history of Noruz, dating back 3000 years. I have also discussed a pre-Noruz celebration, Chahârshanbe Sûrî . In today’s post, I will tell you about another Noruz celebration: Sizdah Bidar.

Haft Sin for Norouz (Persian New Year)

In Iran, the Noruz celebration lasts for 13 days. Images constantly portrayed during these 13 days is The End and Rebirth, Good versus Evil. And, even in ancient times, the number 13 was considered unlucky.

The translation for Sizdah Bedar is something like “Getting rid of 13.” It can also mean “13 Going outdoors.” Many historians believe this celebration came about when people felt that to cast away evil, they should fight the impulse to stay indoors on the 13th day of the new year. So, families spend the day outdoors. In modern times, you will find families gathering together in parks, by lakes or at the beach typically sharing a large meal that defies any image of an American picnic!

tree with flowers

Pots of rice, khoresht (stews), ash-e reshteh (noodle soup) are lined up on picnic tables or on carpets laid over the grass. Pitchers of doogh, a yogurt drink mixed with herbs, is passed around and shared. It must be a sight to see for those unfamiliar with the tradition, but here in Southern California it’s pretty common. We sit, we eat. We laugh, we eat. We talk, we eat. The kids play, we eat. You get the picture.

Persian Yogurt Drink (Doogh)

By the 13th day of Favradin (the first month of the Persian new year), the family sabzeh grown for the haft sin is looking a little sad. This sabzeh is symbolic on the haft sin as it symbolically collects all the sickness and bad luck from the house. So, to ward off evil and bad omens, the sabzeh is casted off on this sizdah bedar.

Sabzi on the haft sin for Pesian New Year (Norouz)

Another traditional act practiced while outdoors, although a bit outdated, is where the unmarried girls tie knots with the blades of grass, hoping to be married by next sizdah bidar. The knot represents love and the bond between husband and wife. I’ve attended many sizdah bidar picnics here in the U.S. and I’ve never seen anyone actually do this. But before you snicker at the thought, is it any sillier than catching a bride’s bouquet at a wedding?

In Western Culture, sizdah bidar falls on April 1st. And, as luck would have it, my family and I are camping this weekend with the cub scouts. A rather fitting tribute to sizdah bidar, don’t you think?

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4 Responses to It’s Time for a Picnic: The Tradition of Sizdah Bedar

  1. Very interesting and I learned something new. I don’t think we have any happy celebration that lasts 13 days in Japan! I enjoyed reading about the tradition of Sizdah Bidar (like the sound of this word) and your photos look really beautiful Laura! Enjoy your picnic. It’s pouring rain today in SF…

  2. Rishi at #

    My girlfriend (Persian) and I (Indian) absolutely LOVE your website and have used it to make about 30 meals over the past year. We really value your creativity and energy for maintaining such a wonderful website of delicious foods! Thank you.

  3. Ahmad at #

    I am an old school Lebanese. I tried variations of hommos or years . By far, this is the best I enjoyed. Well done Ms Bashar, What is next on the menu?

    • Ahmad at #

      please correct the “or” to “for”. Thanks

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