Friday, February 02, 2007

Happy Birthday

"You Shi'a certainly take a lot of holidays," a (rare) Sunni neighbor said to Keivan.

"Well, if you guys wouldn't kill us then we wouldn't have to have this holiday," Keivan answered. The neighbor was stunned at first but laughed with Keivan. He thinks the Shi'a are nuts.

Two days after Ashura, we found ourselves magically transported to a friend's birthday party. During a month when parties are infrequent or just simply quiet in order to avoid the prying of neighbors and potential visits from the police, this was a loud party with dancing and singing. Young and old were represented in healthy numbers as our friend was presented with cake and gifts.

"The sun should never set on Ashura," a woman told us as we discussed the best Ashura events in Iran. She had traveled the entire country observing them. Her favorite was in some out of the way corner of Iran and was, by her accounts, different from all others.

I imagined her standing by the procession in a black scarf and a black manteau crying as the battle of Karbala was recounted in chants. Now, here she was, vodka in hand, listening to music and watching the young people dance. This is what people mean when they tell you that you never know what to expect in Iran.

After a series of Iranian songs sung by a deep-voiced youth, the host's daughter attached her ipod to the stereo and acted as DJ: Bob Dylan, Queen, Cream, and R.E.M. Ahh… the tunes of my youth. What are they doing on the ipod of a 19-year old?

We all sang along to my favorite REM tune: Losing My Religion. It never sounded more like an anthem then when sung by these young Iranian party-goers.


Anonymous said...

Sometime back I suspect that the real meaning of Ashura met up with Xmas and together they decided to join Halloween in Japan. Why Japan? because the stores begin advertising for Halloween in late September, Xmas starts showing up in early November. Since Japanese Shinto/Buddhist culture is not responsible for either holiday, It remains pretty much an entertainment-business proposal, with almost no religious ties. Especially if Halloween swallows up Santa. And more importantly there are not any major Japanese cultural holidays to block the embrace of the two Western reasons to party.

Now regarding Ashura, this will be more difficult because a) you mention Islam in a crowded train and the effect is similar to the reaction of a dark theater and a voice yells out "FIRE"!
b) Iranians have been coming to Japan for quite a while and seem to enjoy congregating in the most important public parks in Tokyo, where they have gained an unsavory image, but very little crime actually, so its only an image.

c) There is no major Iranian Japanese-speaking TV talent here yet.

However 1) Every culture likes a drunken bash to fill up its streets, as long as the people spend money doing so.
2) The timing of Ashura is at the time of Entrance exams for elite schools of all levels, and other respecti ble ones throughout Japan. The non-elites will continue to pose exams until everyone passses by the end of March. The event could be seen as a celebration for passing "the test"!

Edo River rising

anonymous2 said...

Well, I am happy to tell you that I have always been consistent in hating that whole circus and loving my liqueur.