‘Chaharshanbe Suri 2023’ wins Awesome Kingston February grant

One of three fires which burned in the gravel behind the Kingston Memorial Center during the first public Chaharshanbe Suri event in 2022. Photo by Taylor Tye/Kingstonist.

Every month, Awesome Kingston awards a $1,000 grant to a local project that the trustees think will keep Kingston awesome. Last week, the February grant went to Chaharshanbe Suri 2023 (Red Wednesday Eve).

On the Tuesday before spring begins, people of Iranian, Afghan, Kurdish, and Azeri descent, as well as Zoroastrian, Bahai, Ismaili, and other communities celebrate a cultural-religious ceremony called Chaharshanbe Suri, or ‘the Eve of Red Wednesday.’

Here in Kingston, the newly renamed Kingston Iranian Multicultural Initiatives Association (KIMIA) — formerly, and unofficially, known as the Iranian Multicultural Community — have been celebrating this tradition for many years. Last year, they hosted the first free, public Chaharshanbe Suri event in Kingston.

The successful 2022 event saw 330 people “happily jumping over three small fires at Kingston Memorial Centre,” said Arshia Mousavi, spokesperson for KIMIA.

“Participants at Chaharshanbe Suri make small fires and jump over them, asking the fires to, ‘Take the yellow of my sickness, and bring the red of my health,’ while others sing and dance around, welcoming the coming new year,” Mousavi continued.

Pitching for the Awesome Kingston grant is part of KIMIA’s 10-year plan, which the organization hopes will bring them more visibility and permanence in Kingston. They plan to begin hosting new events, such as “badly-needed Iranian art shows, music festivals, and others,” Mousavi explained, noting that KIMIA will be partnering with members of ISAQU, a group for Iranian Queen’s students launched by Ramin Rabii in 1998.

The money from Awesome Kingston will go toward a sound system and power supply for KIMIA’s events.

“Portable power and sound are crucial to Chaharshanbe Suri and other events, so that is our first focus,” Mousavi shared. “We are trying to build up all the gear needed to hold all our events. We have been borrowing various units, when possible, but are not yet independent. If there is enough money left, we would expand our food and beverage options, all of which are free.”

This year’s Chaharshanbe Suri will take place on the evening of March 14 at a location approved by the City of Kingston. Organizers said that the location is uncertain, as they struggle to find a suitable place that will provide all the amenities and opportunities they’d like to see at the celebration.

An official proclamation is also in the works, and will likely be made after the next Kingston City Council meeting.

KIMIA is in the process of creating new social media pages to help share information and details of all their upcoming events. Find them on Instagram and Facebook. These profiles, and a yet-to-be-published Eventbrite page, are where the organization plans to make further announcements about this year’s Chaharshanbe Suri event.

Mousavi noted that attendees who are jumping the fires will need to sign a release on the coming Eventbrite page or in-person at the event.

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