By Tara Biglari

Millions of Iranians around the world this week celebrated Nowruz — the Persian New Year — marking the most important holiday of the year and the first day of Spring.

Galas, festivals and events were held across the U.S. and Europe, with the Iran Heritage Foundation putting on its annual black-tie dinner at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London.

The speaker at this year’s IHF dinner was Seema Kennedy, the first British Member of Parliament of Iranian descent.

A few nights earlier, the Popli Khalatbari Charitable Foundation (PKCF) hosted their annual Chaharshanbeh Suri event at the Mosaic Rooms in Earl’s Court, London. A much-loved celebration, Chaharshanbeh Suri marks the last Tuesday before the New Year, or Nowruz. At sunset, people gather to jump over bonfires singing ‘sorkhi-ye to az man, zardi-ye man az to.’

As the smell of  fire wafted through the air, passersby poked their heads through the gates to find out more about the goings-on. They saw adults and children jumping excitedly over miniature bonfires lit in tin-foil trays.

“I love Chaharshanbeh Suri, because it kicks off the entire Nowruz celebration,” said Kayvon Mesbah, an Iranian-American attendee. “It really is the opening ceremony, if you will.”

It has this special rhythm to it,” added committee member Helia Goharian as she described the chant. “It means that when you jump from the fire, you’re releasing all your negativity and in exchange, receiving all the fun and warmth for the New Year.”

The event was organized by the Young PKCF Committee, set up in 2014 to promote public awareness about the foundation’s ongoing activities. PKCF supports charitable causes globally with a focus on the welfare and education of children, and mainly funds orphanages, vocational schools, hospitals and medical projects.

Throughout the evening, traditional Persian Nowruz soup — ash-e reshteh — was served in miniature bowls, while kotlet sandwiches stuffed with pickles and tomatoes were joyfully consumed. Revelers, young and old, engaged in conversation, music and, in the children’s case, running around with friends. “As a kid, it was definitely my favorite time of the year,” Helia explained. “It’s so special with the fireworks, that smell of wood burning.”

By the end of the event, one could feel a sense of unity among the community. “It’s really important for us to bring all the Iranian families together and respect our traditions,” said committee member Kenza Ben-Brahim.

To learn about the Iran Heritage Foundation, go to: IHF.

To learn more about PKCF, click here to visit their website.