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Gilan Midsummer Norooz

The Persian New Year, Norooz, is traditionally celebrated on 21st March in Iran and many other countries in the region. But in the past, the people of Gilan, in northern Iran, used to have a parallel New Year ceremony called Norooz Bal which was held in early August.

The word Bal, meaning flame, refers to the fires which were lit on mountain tops to herald the arrival of Norooz for the villages below. This was the responsibility of the herdsmen and shepherds who used to migrate to the mountain grazing lands during the summer. They gathered around the fire, thanked God for his bounty during the season, hugged and congratulated each other on the arrival of the New Year. The settled farmers living in the surrounding villages took part in these celebrations too, wearing new clothes and performing various traditional games.

The timing of the Norooz Bal suited the rhythm of the settled farmers and migratory herdsmen of Gilan. High summer is a time when the lambing season is over, the flocks have reached their milking capacity and the herdsmen start preparing to leave the summer grazing grounds and move towards the plains. The settled farmers in the low lands too would have harvested their crops and are ready for a respite.

The Norooz Bal tradition, abandoned for many decades, has now been revived and celebrated in the area for the last four years ago. In this multimedia report we see many colourful scenes of these joyful festivities.

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