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Nauroz, the New Year of the Persian calendar, is celebrated by the Persian and Zoroastrian diaspora the world over. Nauroz marks the symbolic end of winter (evil) and celebrates the coming of spring (rebirth of good).

The fortnight of festivities which mark Nauroz are heralded by a beloved character called Haji Firuz, a troubadour who traditionally wears a bright red costume, a tall red hat and black face paint. Although his origins are ambiguous, Haji Firuz is a well loved character; for centuries he has been responsible for keeping people’s spirits high during Nauroz.

Even in modern times the Haji dances through the streets with his troupe of jesters and musicians singing folk songs and announcing the arrival of spring. His most popular song is “Haji Firuz e, sali ye ruz e!” (“It is Haji Firuz time, it comes once a year!”)

The Haji’s job is to spread joy and happiness during this season so that everyone is upbeat and more importantly in a hospitable mood – to visit family and friends and entertain guests, who are an important part of Nauroze.

For a good measure of cheer, some people invite Haji Firuz to their homes to perform in front of their families and guests so they may enjoy his antics at close quarters. Here Haji Firuz and his troupe play popular folk music, perform comic routines, crack jokes and entertain people, filling the home with laughter, inviting good fortune and invoking abundance that they hope will last all year.

Haji Firuz makes appearances at Nauroz celebrations throughout the world. From his homeland, Iran, to Nauroz parades in North American cities, and from Central Asia to the Balkans, this colourful character has been promoting hope and happiness for generations.

— Leila Mahfooz Barry

First published in Adbuzzzz Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on March 21, 2011.