MEHREGAN: More Than Meets the Eye


by TehranSoParvaz

    When I hear the words Mehregan I think Orange Countyfestival, well that and Transformers. Mehregan sounds like a bad guy that would fight Optimus Prime.  Like many Per Gens (the generation ofPersians born in the diaspora outside of Iran) I am receiving much of myPersian culture and heritage second hand. My parents have always tried to instill Persian values and insist onPersian customs however being that my father is my only primary source ofIranian knowledge it is like playing the game “telephone” with Iranianhistory.  *(Telephone is the game whereone person whispers in the next person ear a word or sentence and the sentencegoes from person to person until it is completely warped by the last person whosays it.) 

Trust me, from my experience Iranian history is warped by myparents.  Not EVERYTHING in existencecame from Iran and/or Iranians despite what my “baba” says…I realized this whenhe tried to convince me Tom Cruise’s real name was Taymoor. 

“Taymoore khodemoon digeh…”

So I did what most people don’t.  I researched it myself.  I wanted to know more about this festivalthat is Mehregan which has seen a big resurgence in recent years.  I wanted to know if it was more than justanother 13bedar wanna be.  Growing up allI knew was Norooz.  Then all of a suddenlike more food on your plate at Iranian dinner Mehregan appeared out of nowhere.

It turns out that Iranians have been celebrating Mehreganfor 1000s of years.  It falls on the dayof Mitra/Mehr in the month of Mitra/Mehr in the Iranian calendar the 196thday of the calendar year.  For those ofyou not familiar ie. Myself that is on or about October 2nd.  Move over Columbus Day.

The Aryans (which means Noble people and NOT blondeHair/blue eyed Nazis even though many Persian girls color their hair and wearcontacts) came to a land which they termed “Aryanam Shayana” aka Iran.  Because of its beautiful 4 seasons (trust meAmericans it SNOWS in Iran ie. best skiing ever in Tehran) they became veryaware of calendars and dates.

Now early Iranians were predominantly Zoroastrian (though itseems Mehregan may have even been celebrated earlier than that) and Mehreganwas the fall festival that honored the deity Mitra (not the cute girl down thestreet) in respect to things like friendship, affection, and love.  And of course Autumn.  In fact some scholars back then showed thatsome people preferred Mehregan to Norooz (even though you don’t get presents)because they preferred Autumn to Spring. Mehregan used to be huge.  In factMehregan used to have its own table very similar to “haft seen” andeverything.  Persian Kings only tookaudience on two days Mehregan and Norooz. It was time for harvest and taxes (don’t worry Iranians cheated on theirtaxes back then too.)

So what happened? Well as almost everything in Iranian history the Arabs and theMongols.  (If you cant blame it on themjust remember blame the rest on the English.) The Mongol invasion of the 13th Century gave us “miniatures”but took away Mehregan as a celebration. Since most of the world at the time celebrated Norooz (yes I spell itwith two Os) it would have been very hard for them to take that away.  But Mehregan was gone mostly except for thepeople in Yazd and Kerman where even to this day there are large numbers ofZoroastrians.

Mehregan as with most Iranian celebrations is celebratedwith fire (not good for the Terrorist image we are trying to get rid of.)  Huge bonfires are lit and people sit aroundtelling stories, playing the “daf”, reciting Hafez and Shahnameh.  People who set tables do so with colorfuldisplays of rosewater,sweets, flowers, vegetables and fruits, especially pomegranates and apples, andnuts such as almonds or pistachios. A few silver coins and lotus seeds areplaced in a dish of water scented with marjoram extract (don’t worry I don’tknow what that is either…)

Pointis Mehregan today is more than just about reliving our glory days of thePersian Empire.  It’s a resurgence intoIranian heritage and culture.  Moreimportantly its about coming together as a community.  Coming together is more than just about“hanging out” and “looking nice.”  Itsabout realizing our common heritage despite all possible political andreligious differences and knowing our common past with the goal to reach acommon future, together.  Mehregan is notabout the Autumn Harvest (God knows there is no Autumn in California) its aboutharvesting our community so we don’t fall. Hope to see you all at Mehregan.

Not alecture.  Just a Thought.

-Tehran SoParvaz

for more TEHRAN - check me out on (every other) WEDNESDAY NIGHTS and on TI formerly Tapesh 


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