Sweden rings in Iranian new year

At 1.30am on Wednesday, around 140,000 people in Sweden will begin celebrating Norouz, the Iranian new year.

The initial celebrations set the tone for two weeks of festivities, characterized by the exchange of gifts, an abundance of food and visits to family and friends. Norouz traditionally marks the beginning of spring.

For the third year in a row, the ancient Zoroastrian holiday will be celebrated at Globen Arena in Stockholm. Around 8,000 people are expected to gather in the venue to dance and listen to music.

One of the artists due to play at Globen is Arash, who came to Sweden as a ten-year-old in the 1980s. Having made his breakthrough both in Sweden and internationally, Norouz is a very hectic time for the singer.

“I was in London a few days ago and I’m also going to be playing in Dubai and Copenhagen. It’s great to be able to celebrate the new year with my compatriots around the world,” Arash told news agency TT.

Norouz is the most prominent public holiday in Iran, Syria and in Kurdish regions.

“It is something that is very big for us. It is a bit reminiscent of Christmas. We also have a Christmas buffet, even if it looks different, and we put on our best clothes and exchange presents.

“The main difference between celebrating here and in Iran is that then we celebrated with all our relatives. Here it tends to be a bit more lonely,” said Arash.

Iranian new year celebrations have become so widespread in Sweden that shop-owners have noticed an increase in their takings. The Swedish Trade Federation (Svensk Handel) estimates that turnover will increase by 120 to 150 million kronor ($17-21 million) as a direct result of Norouz.

“It’s really all types of products. People buy a lot of groceries of course. But it is also a holiday for which people dress nicely, so a lot of dress clothes and shoes are bought. Even children are dressed in their finest clothes.

“People also decorate their homes, so there could be a few new living room sofas too,” said Meta Troell from the Swedish Trade Federation.