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    Zoroastrian Mehregan Festival (Nowadays), Part 2

    Iran - Zoroastrian Mehregan Festival (Nowadays), Part 2


    In this part, how Mehregan is celebrated nowadays is discussed. As mentioned in the previous part, Mehregan is one of the two most ancient Iranian festivals known, dating back at least as far as the earliest Aryans (Iranians). The word "Mehr" (in Mehregan) in the Persian language means kindness. Mehr represents knowledge, love, light and friendship. Mehregan is an Iranian festival celebrated in honor of Mithra, the divinity of covenant, and hence of interpersonal relationships such as friendship, affection and love. The festival falls on the 196th day of the Iranian year (10th Mehr. 2nd Oct.).



    For this celebration, the participants wear new clothes and set a decorative, colorful table. The sides of the tablecloth are decorated with dry marjoram. A copy of the Khordeh Avesta ("little Avesta"), a mirror and a sormeh-dan (a traditional eyeliner or kohl) are placed on the table together with rosewater, sweets, flowers, vegetables and fruits, especially pomegranates and apples, and nuts such as almonds or pistachios, sometimes a scale for showing the equality of day and night. A few silver coins and lotus seeds are placed in a dish of water scented with marjoram extract.

    A burner is also part of the table setting for kondor/loban (frankincense) and espand (seeds of Peganum harmala, Syrian rue) to be thrown on the flames.



    Seven types of fruits are seen at the tablecloth, pomegranate, apple, grape, pear, senjed (fruit of the lotus tree), quince and citron. There is also a kind of special nuts at this table. There are some grains such as: pea, been, lentil and chickling vetch to dedicate last year harvest and next year plan. In Mehregan all families join together for observance and pray.



    At lunchtime when the ceremony begins, everyone in the family stands in front of the mirror to pray. Sharbat (juice drink) is drunk and then—as a good omen—sormeh is applied around the eyes. Handfuls of wild marjoram, lotus and sugarplum seeds are thrown over one another's heads while they embrace one another.



    In some of the villages in Yazd, Zoroastrians still sacrifice sheep for Mehr. These sacrifices are done on the day of Mehregan and for three days afterwards. The sacrifice should be done during the hours of sunlight. The sheep is placed on three stones in the furnace, representing the good words, good deeds and good thoughts, and barbecued.  After this special ritual, the sheep, including the skin and fat is taken to the fire temple'.  The fat is thrown on the fire to make the flames burn fiercely and then the participants pray.  This celebration continues for the next five days.



    Roasted mutton is this day's special dish. Sometimes this meal is distributed freely to all local people including the non-Zoroastrians. Other kinds of food and delicacies are also prepared to be shared by all (including dogs, which are venerated amongst Zoroastrians). There are special cookies which are prepared for this day and distributed in feast.



    At the sunlight of the first day of festival prayers gather near the biggest spring of the village and pray for dead people. Then they go to village's houses singing and dancing. Each house's host opens the house door for them and give some Mehregan's nuts to them and then they go to the temple of village and give the gathered nuts and gifts to the man who preserved the temple's fire last year and ask him to preserve the fire for the next year also and that man distributes nuts.



    The greatest observance is the lighting outside this temple of a huge fire just after the sunset.

    In the evening, bonfires are lit and prayers are recited for receiving divine blessings. Fireworks are also set off, following which families sit down for a lavish dinner. The rest of the days will be spent feasting, praying, singing and partying.

    Mehregan was a celebration of life, seasons changing, God, and joy. In Zoroastrianism, happiness is very important and is considered as a holy virtue that must be attracted. Thus, this religion has always had many feasts and celebrations.



    The festival symbolically ends with bonfires and fireworks, but should not be confused with Sadeh, which likewise celebrates with bonfires but occurs at the end of the calendar year.

    No matter what the origins, Persians all over celebrate this festival in the fall signifying the season of harvest and thanksgiving. Friendships are renewed and families are visited.

    The festival is also a reminder of the cornerstone of the religion of Prophet Zoroaster -- good words, good deeds and good thoughts.



    The people of the community, as a tradition, gather to celebrate and welcome the coming of spring and winter. Celebrations end with bonfires, fireworks, and rejoicing on this merry occasion.

    In 1960s, the Postal Service in Tehran issued a series of stamps to commemorate Mehrgan Festival.

    Many times, even today when a child is born on Mehregan, the parents will name the child with a name starting with "Mehr" such as MehrDokht or MehrDad or MehrBanu.



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    This workshop is designed according to the UNESCO World Heritage Education Programme in order to give young people a chance to voice their concerns and to become involved in the protection of our common cultural and natural heritage. It seeks to encourage and enable tomorrow’s decision-makers to participate in heritage conservation and to respond to the continuing threats facing our World Heritage. The idea of involving young people in World Heritage preservation and promotion came as a response to Article 27 of the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (World Heritage Convention). Furthermore, Patrimonito means 'small heritage' in Spanish and the character represents a young heritage guardian. Patrimonito has been widely adopted as the international mascot of the World Heritage Education Programme.
    Date: 29th December
    Number of trainees: 7
    Duration: 3 hours

    The workshop of "Patrimonito" was held on 29th of December. Participants arrived around 10:30 and they were welcomed by hot chocolate and Persian cup cakes. After a little introduction by trainers and trainees, the process started by making two groups and letting them choose a name for their group, each group was accompanied by a mentor then each group was given some images of world heritage sites in Iran and some descriptions, each group was asked to match images and descriptions, the mentor was guiding them throughout the activity. All trainees were participating actively and trying to remember their experiences about their travels to these places. When they were done with the activity, the mentors started giving the answers and a brief explanation about each site; mentors were using trainees’ ideas and experiences to complete their tasks.

    Shortly after that, the second part started which was a presentation done by two of mentors. The aim of this presentation was to define the value of these world heritage sites and duties of each person as a "Patrimonito", and what happens if there is no "Patrimonito" and nobody cares about our tangible or intangible heritage. In this part trainees started questioning and understanding the whole concept of being a "Patrimonito", they also added their own suggestions on how to protect our heritage and by the end of this part, they were completely aware about their role as a "Patrimonito".
    Now it was a best time to have a short break, during the break trainees were introduced to some of intangible heritages as they were served by traditional food and snacks and even they way of serving was according to traditions and everyone had this opportunity to discuss about intangible heritage while enjoying some traditional food and snacks.
    When the break was done, everyone was asked to choose a heritage either tangible or intangible and they had to introduce their chosen heritage to a tourist by making a postcard using what they have learnt. They were given all of necessary tools such as color papers, color pencils, glue, scissors, images of heritage and a mentor was with them in order to help them completing the task.

    When they were done, they handed out their postcards and with the mentors they sat together and spent a few minutes asking and answering about what they have learnt. Then they were told to say their vows for protecting their heritage and caring about it, the mentor said the vow and the trainees repeated after her and they officially became a "Patrimonito".

    The last but the best part was when they were given the certificates, and they were told that since they are aware of the value of the heritage and they know how to protect it, they are chosen as "Patrimonito" and they should continue their mission by introducing the value of heritage to others. They were granted certificates and labels and the workshop of "Patrimonito" was finished by taking some memorial photos.