#195: Nowruz and the Nain

Rainy day paradegoers, dressed in red and black.
Cass Corridor, Detroit, MI

A week of adjustment. I got back to Detroit on Wednesday, and as of Friday started writing in the mornings again – just journaling for now, easing my way back into the next novel. It’s been a rocky few days but I see forming again the start of a steady routine.

Saturday I went to a gathering at M’s place. M’s father is a diplomat; his family moved all around the world for much of his life. Now settled on his own in Detroit, M had friends over to celebrate Nowruz, the Persian New Year, a tradition he was first exposed to by living in the Middle East. There was a table called a Half Seen – with seven symbolic items, each starting with the letter Seen (which makes the s sound). There were, separately in the kitchen, curries and rice, slightly salty sparking water, ice cream, juices, bean pie – a feast.

One of the things M said in explanation was that the Persian New Year coincided with the beginning of spring, and the change in calendar matched a change in the physical environment – so it actually feels like a new year. I found that to be so carefully observed. For me, it explains some of the difficulty behind first-of-January resolutions, especially when compared the energy that seems to come more naturally in the early spring, and late fall.

That was Saturday. And Sunday, today, was Detroit’s Marche du Nain Rouge.  Many cultures have their trickster deities – their foxes and dogs and long-nosed demons who do things like steal or eat the moon. Detroit’s is the Nain Rouge, a devilish red dwarf (the creature, not the star) adopted from French folklore, who is responsible for the city’s misfortunes. The march itself is a relatively new tradition, started in 2008, and takes its cue from (I’m guessing) the Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans. People dress up in masks and costumes and walk down Woodward Avenue in parade behind the Nain, in order to drive him out of the city for another year.

I stayed up a little too late the night before making a mask out of cardboard. It held up okay in the rain. Some friends and I walked the length of the parade route but ducked out before the end of the closing ceremony. We retreated to a bar for beer and nachos.