This week (Wednesday) Iranians will celebrate Nowruz, the Persian New Year (1392). As it is every year, this period is rife with tension pitting Iranian citizens who want to celebrate the New Year with ancient, pre-Revolution Iranian traditions against the Iranian regime that strives – to date without much success – to prevent these events from being held, despite the popularity of the traditions.
Chaharshanbe-Suri, meaning Wednesday Feast, is a very popular Zoroastrian festival of fire that takes place in the streets of Iran on the last Wednesday of the Persian year. During the festivities, people light bonfires and jump over them and breaks pots and pans after jumping over the fire (according to superstition, after jumping over the pot, all misfortune is transferred from the family to the smashed pot. In Tehran, people throw pots off their rooftops into the streets and customs vary throughout Iran. 
This year, as in the past, the Iranian security forces, following the instructions of the religious establishment, have prohibited all gatherings in parks and public places and have warned that security forces will increase their presence in these areas to prevent the festivities from taking place. The clerics giving Friday sermons in the various cities asked the Majlis to fight what they referred to as the “negative implications” of Chaharshanbe-Suri and emphasized that they must do their utmost to wipe out these “pagan” festivals.
As the New Year begins, sharp criticism was also leveled at Ahmadinejad and his government for the celebrations in Tehran “welcoming Nowruz,” during which foreign, un-Islamic music was played and women danced. Key sources of emulation in Iran, including Grand Ayatollah Safi Golpaygani and Makram Shirazi, viciously attacked the celebrations and called on anybody who sees “violations of Islamic law” to speak up and report them. The important clergymen accused Ahmadinejad and his allies of “immorality,” and emphasized that God and the martyrs would make them pay for their part in encouraging these transgressions. As they see it, these are not Islamic celebrations, and Nowruz should not in any way be viewed as Islamic. “Does the music, dancing and immodesty inherent in these ceremonies have any place in Islam and Islamic law?” Other key clerics have been vocal in their criticism of the fact that Nowruz celebrations overshadow the celebration of the birth of the Prophetess Fatima. 
The religious establishment, which has recently increased its criticism of the government due to the difficult economic circumstances, also considered aloud whether it was even appropriate to hold such festivities while Iran’s poor are being crushed by the economic burden and people are faced with increasing unemployment, sharp price increases and rampant inflation. Many Iranian media outlets have addressed the significant decline in purchasing power of Iranians ahead of the New Year, and some even reported on tension, despair and unhappiness. 
Regardless, the Iranian people will mark the upcoming New Year as it has throughout the centuries of development of Persian culture and will continue to blur the Islamic character the regime is attempting to enforce by outlawing its ancient and glorious heritage. This issue and the formation of a new Iranian identity in the revolutionary era is increasingly becoming the main issue in the upcoming presidential elections between Ahmadinejad and his camp (the “deviant stream,” as it is known by its opponents) and the religious establishment and supporters of the Supreme Leader. In any event, Persian New Year festivities and traditions will continue to be a strongpoint that connects revolutionary and pre-revolutionary Iran and feeds the protest against the Islamic regime that is working to eradicate the customs from people’s hearts.