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haft sin table

A Haft Sin table from the 2010 Nowruz celebration at the Freer and Sackler Galleries.

Nowruz! A Persian New Year Celebration at the Freer and Sackler Galleries

Media only: Megan Krefting 202-633-0271; kreftingm@si.edu
Public only: 202.633.1000

February 24, 2011

Free family event
Sunday, March 13, 2011
11 am–4:30 pm

Join us for “Nowruz! A Persian New Year Celebration” at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. Enjoy a day of free events—tantalizing storytelling, traditional and contemporary Persian music, backgammon and chess, delicious food, and of course, fun activities for all ages—on Sunday, March 13, from 11 am to 4:30 pm.

This year’s festivities are accompanied by the special exhibition The Shahnama: 1000 Years of the Persian Book of Kings. Completed a millennium ago by the Persian poet Firdawsi (died 1020), the Shahnama, Iran’s national epic, recounts the myths, legends, and “history” of Iran from the beginning of time to the Arab conquest in the seventh century. The paintings on view are from some of the finest copies of the Shahnama to have survived from the fourteenth to the sixteenth century. They illustrate significant moments in Firdawsi’s epic, from the heroic deeds of Rustam to the adventures of Iskandar. Volunteer guides will be in the galleries on March 13 to answer questions and engage in conversation.

The 2011 Nowruz celebration features new activities as well as popular favorites from previous years. They include: displays of traditional Haft Sin tables; “fire” jumping; a variety of art activities, from making Nowruz cards and sabzeh boxes to decorating eggs and creating masks and puppets of Shahnama characters; a text messaging scavenger hunt; and games of backgammon and chess. Mamak Khadem will be back to perform a repertoire of traditional Persian music relating to Nowruz. DJs from Radio Javan will offer a modern beat with contemporary Persian music in the Freer courtyard. Xanthe Gersham, a popular storyteller based in London, tells spellbinding stories from the Shahnama. Traditional Persian food, inspired by celebrity chef Najmieh Batmanglij’s Food of Life, and an array of Persian sweets will be available for purchase throughout the day.

The Freer and Sackler Galleries’ Nowruz celebration is made possible by a generous gift from Jahangir and Eleanor Amuzegar.

Traditional Nowruz activities

Haft Sin table displays
Sackler Pavilion and Freer North Corridor
Iranian families traditionally set up Haft Sin tables to mark the return of spring and the start of a new year. Explore the Haft Sin tables on display, each featuring seven symbolic items that refer to new life and renewal.

“Fire” jumping
Welcome the new year with the ancient custom of a fire festival. Celebrate the victory of light over darkness and cast off the troubles of the past year by jumping over an artificial fire.

Backgammon and chess

Spend the afternoon playing the ancient games of backgammon and chess.
(Chess games and instruction courtesy Silver Knights Chess)

Persian music by DJs from Radio Javan

Celebrate Nowruz with contemporary Persian music provided by DJs from Radio Javan, a leading source of Persian music and entertainment.

Special Events

The Shahnama: 1000 Years of the Persian Book of Kings
Sackler sublevel 1
The exhibition includes unrivaled paintings from copies of the Shahnama (Book of Kings), Iran’s national epic written a millennium ago by the poet Firdawsi. Volunteer guides will be available to answer questions.

Storytelling by Xanthe Gresham
Discovery Theater, Ripley Center
Free performances at 11 am, 1 pm, and 3:30 pm
Back by popular demand, Xanthe Gresham, a London-based storyteller, presents lively tales and exciting adventures from the Shahnama.

Musical performances by the Mamak Khadem Ensemble

Meyer Auditorium, Freer Gallery
12 noon and 3 pm
Free tickets required*
Iranian-born vocalist Mamak Khadem, formerly of the Persian-fusion band Axiom of Choice, performs classic Nowruz songs and her own new music with her ensemble of musicians on santur, clarinet, sorna, duduk, bass, and percussion.

*Free tickets are required for the Mamak Khadem performances. Up to four tickets can be reserved (with service fee) beginning February 28 through Ticketmaster at 800.551.7328 or ticketmaster.com. Unreserved and no-show tickets (two per person; no service fee) are distributed at the Meyer Auditorium beginning one hour before showtime. Please refer to www.asia.si.edu/events/admissioninfo.asp for more information.

Book sale and signing with Najmieh Batmanglij
Freer North Corridor
1–3 pm
The new edition of Food of Life by acclaimed chef and author Najmieh Batmanglij are available for sale at a discount.

Other Activities

Activities for Children and Families
Make puppets of heroes and demons, design Nowruz greeting cards, and create the mask of a hero or a div—a ferocious demon—from the Shahnama.

Traditional Persian food for purchase
Enjoy traditional Persian food, inspired by chef Najmieh Batmanglij’s cookbook Food of Life, from Johnny’s Kabob.

For complete schedules, event locations, and additional details on all Nowruz events, please visit www.asia.si.edu.

The Freer Gallery of Art, located at 12th Street and Independence Avenue, SW, and the adjacent Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, located at 1050 Independence Avenue, SW, are on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Hours are from 10 am to 5:30 pm every day, except Dec. 25, and admission is free. The galleries are located near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines. For more information, the public may call (202) 633-1000 or visit the Web site: www.asia.si.edu.

the freer and sackler galleries

Contact us

Tel: 202.633.0271
Fax: 202.633.0046

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Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
PO Box 37012, MRC 707
Washington, DC 20013-7012

The Freer|Sackler is closed for renovation and reinstallation. The popular exhibition Turquoise Mountain: Artists Transforming Afghanistan is still on view in the International Gallery. (Enter through the Ripley Center.) Join us for our reopening celebration on October 14–15, 2017.