March 10 2021
This is part of our ongoing series, Real Talk, where we feature real folks and real convos that are important, inspiring and true to us. This piece was penned by our founder, Azora Zoe Paknad.
When I’ve mentioned working on a small collection of first-ever merch for Goldune to celebrate Nowruz, I’ve gotten a few raised eyebrows. The eyebrow waggles seem to imply that I should be focusing all my waking hours on sourcing sustainable napkins or menstrual cups, and I get why-- with a fledgling business this young, it’s implicit that I should stick to the course, keep my head down, and not take too many risks. Starting a business is risky enough. Maybe that was the playbook five years ago, or even two or three-- but that’s not my playbook, and that’s not the kind of business I set out to start.
Don’t get me wrong, we won’t be pivoting to apparel or Persian calligraphy anytime soon, but if I really seek to break the granola, beige, mostly-white dominant narrative I see in the sustainability space, doesn’t that mean showing up as my full self? This month we’ve read a book on Indigenous wisdom about nature, I’ve watched brands and founders I admire like Omsom and Our Place launch Lunar and Persian New Year collections, or continue to push the boundaries by refusing to be just one thing, like our friends at Dada. It feels like a no-brainer to bring my own vibrant, verdant tradition to the table, especially one entirely about Earth, Spring, and new beginnings, at a time when we really need those things.
If I want a more intersectional world, one that makes engaging with Earth + environment more open, fun, vibrant, inclusive and free of judgment, that starts with me showing up as an entrepreneur and creative for what I wish I had had all along. Nowruz has shaped my feelings about Spring, community, togetherness and fresh starts as long as I’ve lived-- those things feel like an extension of our mission at Goldune, and so we decided to use our platform to celebrate Nowruz in our very own mixed, intersectional, messy, sustainable, honest way.
For us, that also meant that we didn’t want to damage our planet in an attempt to produce more stuff to celebrate it. In typical Goldune fashion, we did a lot of homework (so you don’t have to), and made sure that everything we made was produced thoughtfully and responsibly. Better yet, these are our first circular products, meaning we’re going to take every single last bit back from you when you’re done with them, so nothing ever goes to landfill. You can read all about the journey to circularity, how to send these back to us, and sustainable production of our Nowruz collection in the "End of Life" section we include on each product page, or just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org any time you have questions.
I might owe you more context about Norooz, Nowruz, Nawruz, Newruz, Navroz, Persian New Year-- what was that thing Shakespeare said? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet?
All of those names refer to the same holiday, though in English you may have come to think of it as the Spring Equinox. This year’s falls on Saturday, March 20th and marks the beginning of the year 1400. (Reminder that not all folks use the Gregorian calendar!)
Nowruz means a lot of things to a lot of different people, and even though you may have heard it referred to as “Persian” New Year, it’s actually a holiday that transcends a single ethnic group (like Persian identity). Nowruz gets celebrated all around the world these days, but it’s a celebration of Spring that has roots in Western Asia, Central Asia, the Caucasus, Balkans, and South Asia too. In Iran, where my family is from, it’s a pretty big deal.
Back to all those names! There can sometimes be a little tug of war about the “proper” spelling. The way I see it, the intersectional thing to do is to let folks of different languages, backgrounds and identities spell it and pronounce it how they see fit, and not to shame or wrist slap folks who don’t share our exact POV on how everything gets written out or pronounced. Like a lot of other parts of the world that have seen multiple alphabets, dozens of turnovers in empires or ruling, and now a transliteration into English, language can be really loaded and nuanced for folks in Asia and the Middle East. The upside? Language can also be an incredible and beautiful tool for connection, art, understanding, and rediscovery of some of the things as old as language itself-- a reverence for our amazing planet, and the land and soil we call home.
There are a lot of little things I really love about Nowruz that make the holiday feel special-- in Iran, the Wednesday before the Equinox/New Year is charshanbe suri, a festive evening where people jump over small bonfires and light firecrackers and fireworks. There’s a poetic tradition too that I’ll do my best to translate into English-- a literal translation is “my yellow is yours, your red is mine,” which is sort of meant to mean “give me your healthy glow, and take my sickly pallor!.” In Farsi, its “سرخی تو از من، زردی من از تو”, which you might recognize from or notice on our charshanbe suri greeting card and tote.
Before the arrival of the New Year, folks often celebrate with a traditional table spread, called the haft sin, which translates to “The Seven S’s.” The haft sin table is usually decorated with a bunch of different tokens that all start with the letter s (or sin, س, in Farsi), like sabze (wheatgrass, barley, mung bean or lentil sprouts), samanu (a sweet wheat germ pudding), serke (vinegar), sib (apple), sir (garlic), and more. Sometimes folks also lay out ornately painted eggs (yup, not just an Easter thing!), coins, hyacinth, or a book of wisdom-- sometimes a religious text, sometimes a book of poetry by a legend like Hafez or Ferdowsi. (Psst-- we designed some of these items into our sticker sheet. Can you spot any?)
One of my other favorite traditions is the picnic we have on the thirteenth day of the New Year. It’s called sizedebedar, which means “thirteen outdoor.” We release the sprouted greens from our haft sin into moving water, sending them back to the Earth. I grew up looking forward to picnicking with all my friends in the park every year, filling our plates with as much food as we could eat and playing soccer or tag until the day finally came to a close. As a grown up, it is decidedly less rowdy, but I’ve had my share of picnic gatherings in Central Park, huddled around cups of hot coffee from street carts to stay warm. Doesn’t it feel more fitting now than ever, when after a year, it is still safest to see each other at a safe distance, from the green grass of our nearest park or open space?
In fact, it wasn’t just the socially distant picnic that felt more relevant than ever this year-- you’ll find so many different parts of Nowruz tradition in the collection we’re dropping. I worked closely with another Iranian-American designer (the lovely Leila Register) on everything from recycled Nowruz holiday cards, to sustainably manufactured stickers, to a hyacinth emblazoned tote, and haft sin printed tee.
I’m excited to share our take on Nowruz with you, and I hope that the New Year ahead (the year 1400, to be exact!) holds a lot of good news, for all of us. Cheers to Spring, new beginnings, and verdant and vibrant traditions that keep our feet on the ground, no matter how far our heads drift towards the clouds.