Ghazaleh Dadres didn’t expect so many people to attend her party at Edina’s Cornelia School Park celebrating the coming of the Iranian New Year.
She had only invited her South Cornelia neighbors and a close circle of Iranian friends. But those friends told their friends and relatives, and soon more than 100 people from across the Twin Cities were at the park Tuesday celebrating the new year and the coming of spring.
“We can’t do an Iranian event without a lot of Iranians,” Dadres said inside the park’s warming house. “I am amazed at how many people have showed up.”
The Chaharshanbe Suri celebration, also known as the Festival of Fire, is held on the eve of the last Wednesday before the spring equinox (on Tuesday this week). Iranians around the world mark the day with wishes for good health and well-being for the upcoming year.
Dadres has celebrated the day with her family in Edina for years. This time, she wanted to make it a neighborhood event.
“I saw her celebrating on Facebook ... and I wanted to know more about it,” said Marie Johnson, chair of South Cornelia’s neighborhood association. “I thought it’d be a great event to share with the neighborhood and get us all involved.”
The party Tuesday evening extended beyond the warming house and into the parking lot. Friends chatted in Persian, slurped on Ash reshteh, a thick noodle soup, and danced to Iranian pop music.
A line of bonfires glowed in the parking lot. One by one, attendees jumped over the flames, a traditional symbol of purification for the new year.
“The idea is to leave what’s in the past in the past ... and jump into the fire starting anew,” Dadres said.
Dadres was born in Iran and raised in Toronto, a city with a large Iranian population. She has lived in Edina for the last six years. Her children, who have learned to speak Persian, go to Highlands Elementary School.
“This is probably by far the best neighborhood that I have lived in,” she said.
What began as a mom’s group within the South Cornelia community years ago grew into something bigger over time, Johnson said. The city officially recognized the neighborhood in October.
Neighbors have looked for countless reasons to get together since then. Chaharshanbe Suri is just one on a list of cultural events, which includes an Easter egg hunt on March 31 and a Cinco de Mayo party in May.
Mani Mirzasadeghi, Dadres’ husband, said he is grateful that their neighbors are open to learning about different countries and traditions.
“Our neighbors — Americans and people of different ethnicities — are coming together to celebrate,” he said. “I really feel like I have a sense of belonging here. It’s something that I didn’t have before.”
Bringing the Edina and Iranian communities together was a “huge success,” Dadres said, a testament to the city’s support of all its residents.
Iranians “have a super rich culture, [but] we still need to find our niche in the U.S.,” Dadres said. “We need to connect more and become a stronger community.”
Tuesday’s Chaharshanbe Suri celebration, she believed, was one step closer toward achieving that.