Sofreh-ye aqd & Shab-e Yalda
For December 2022, inspired by the sofrehs to celebrate winter solstice (Shab-e Yalda), an original marriage sofreh (sofreh-ye aqd) was designed for a private exhibition. Shab-e Yalda is the longest night of the year, and falls around 21 December. To read more please scroll down and see the post of December, 2020.
Aqd @ Wedding Season: Private Exhibition
This orderly, manifestly symmetrical contemporary marriage sofreh (sofreh-ye aqd), that showcases a fusion of tradition and modernity, is inspired by the “Gold and Glass” sofreh featured in SOFREH: The Art of Persian Celebration, and posted on social media pages in July 2017 and August 2018. It was designed for a private exhibition in June/July 2022.
Exhibition on Isfahan
In connection with the exhibition on Isfahan mentioned below, the following image and caption were posted on the social media pages of SOFREH in July 2022.
This enchanting image reveals an intricately decorated backdrop for a lively festivity with music, flowers and a charming sofreh with flasks and vessels that may contain drinks and sweets. Pomegranates, which are an important part of the Persian cuisine and culinary tradition, are on display.
Image: Folio from a 16th century manuscript titled Bustan (Garden) by the 13th century Persian poet, Sa’di held at the Chester Beatty Library. Please see https://viewer.cbl.ie/viewer/image/Per_236/293/.
Exhibition on Isfahan
The Chester Beatty museum in Dublin is holding an exhibition and talks on Isfahan under the Safavid dynasty—4 February-28 August 2022.
Meeting in Isfahan
Vision and Exchange in Safavid Iran
As the global silk trade boosted Iran’s economy, the popular rhyme observed: “Isfahan, nesf-e jahan” – “Isfahan is half the world”.
The following image and caption were posted on the social media pages of SOFREH in May 2022.
We are well into the wedding season. This charming 17th century image illustrates a marriage ceremony from the Book of Kings (Shahnameh) by Ferdowsi. An enchanting Persian marriage sofreh (sofreh-ye aqd) is on display, including pomegranates, beautiful jugs, jars and bowls which may contain wine or rosewater (golab), Persian sugared almonds (noql) or sweets. There are incense burners echoing the tradition of “esfand dud kardan” (burning seeds of rue), which releases a pleasant aroma and is believed to ward off evil spirits. Two pairs of sugar cones are on display. The custom of grinding sugar cones during the marriage ceremony to wish the couple a sweet and harmonious married life is popular to this day.
Image: Folio from a manuscript dated 1655 held at the Chester Beatty Library (CBL Per 270.66) – Iskandar marries Roshanak. Please see: https://viewer.cbl.ie/viewer/image/Per_270_66/1/LOG_0000/.
This original award-winning sectional dining table set, “Birth Table”, by the Turkish designer Aziz Sanyer, was featured in SOFREH, showcasing a simple, yet creative sofreh for the celebrations of Nowruz (sofreh-ye haft sinn). To celebrate Nowruz in March 2022, this innovative dining table set has formed the foundation for another original sofreh creation. The elements of this versatile set are arranged in a different fashion, and the ensemble of this sofreh is surrounded with lengths of opulently ruched ivory silk.
Both the surfaces of the table and some chairs showcase the symbolic elements of the sofreh-ye haft sinn, e.g. a mirror, candelabra, the Qur’an, germinated wheat (sabzeh), hyacinths (sonbol), apples (sib), garlic (sir), vinegar (serkeh), sumac (somaq) and gilded coins (sekkeh). This delightful sofreh is embellished with lengths of fine antique Persian textile (termeh), with elaborate embroideries and borders.
Aqd @ Festive Season: Private Exhibition
Inspired by the decorations of the festive season, a private exhibition was organized, presenting a compact Persian marriage sofreh (sofreh-ye aqd) on a soft green spread, with a white and gold colour scheme. It includes some of the important symbolic elements of the sofreh-ye aqd—a mirror, candelabra, nuts, sugared almonds, coins and sugarloaves. The tea light holders are shaped like Christmas trees. Ceramic metallic-finish pomegranates echo baubles. The soft white bouquets include sprigs of fir, reminiscent of Christmas foliage, while the gold-finish angel echoes the spirit of the festive season.
Sofreh-ye Haft Sinn, Virginia Governor’s Mansion
For Nowruz of 1400 AS, a pleasing sofreh was displayed at the Virginia Governor’s Mansion, with the Governor and the First Lady comprehensively explaining the symbolism of the elements of the sofreh-ye haft sinn.
Shab-e Yalda, Winter Solstice: Private Exhibition
To bring life and joy into the long, dark winter nights of 2020, a private exhibition was organized, presenting a sofreh reflecting the enchanting traditions of Shab-e Yalda, the winter solstice—the eve of 1 Dey in the Persian calendar, corresponding to 21 December. The feast of Yalda originates in the pre-Islamic period and is associated with agriculture. The divan-e Hafez (works of 14th-century Persian poet, Hafez) to recite poetry, and red fruits—watermelons and pomegranates—are important parts of this celebration, heralding the crimson hues of sunrise after absolute darkness, and the promise of longer days ahead. Interestingly, Shab-e Yalda is only about one minute longer than the preceding night. In the Persian tradition people get together, tea, sweets, fruits and nuts are served, and stories and poetry are recited. The idea is to get through the darkest and longest night of the year, when it is believed that demons are most active, while celebrating the passing of darkness and the rebirth of the sun.
December 24, 2020
Christmas Versus Sofreh: Private Exhibition
This year the private exhibition of Shab-e Yalda, the winter solstice, which will be featured at the end of the month, was given particular prominence. Hence, only a compact, yet opulent arrangement was additionally exhibited to demonstrate a marriage of Christmas ornaments and the symbolic elements of the Persian sofreh.
The emphasis is on the richness of the deep-red and antique-gold colour scheme which echoes elements of both Christmas celebrations and the Persian traditions. A bouquet of Christmas foliage, including cotton branches and snowberry sprigs, takes centre stage behind a block of germinated wheat (sabzeh), an important symbolic element of the Persian sofreh. Christmas lights illuminate this section. Pomegranates, red apples, gold-finish walnuts, pine cones, gold tassels, pouches of sugared almonds and gilded coins (in the Persian spirit), leaves and a statuette of an angel (both with a gold finish) are on display and are softly illuminated with flames. For more ideas in the same spirit please visit the Gallery page, Christmas Versus Nowruz—December, 2019 & Nowruz Versus Christmas—December, 2018.
Jashn-e Mehregan: Private Exhibition
2020 has been a painful and punishing time for everyone. The joy of gathering or celebrating has been sidelined by health and economic catastrophes. In the spirit of hope and optimism, an original and unconventional sofreh was created around the autumnal harvest for a private exhibition dedicated to Jashn-e Mehregan.
Jashn-e Mehregan is an Iranian festival which is apparently dedicated to the god of Mithra (Mehr). To read more, please visit www.iranicaonline.org/articles/mehragan. Very briefly, in the Persian culture, Mehregan is believed to have the same significance as Nowruz, with Nowruz signalling the beginning of spring and Mehregan marking the arrival of autumn. The celebrations, which have their origins in the pre-Islamic period and are associated with agriculture and harvest, are usually held between 16 and 21 Mehr in the Persian calendar, which correspond to 8 and 13 October. Although in the past sofreh was part of the Mehregan customs, in modern times, it is not. Yet to mark the occasion, a sofreh with a refreshing outlook, showcasing a contemporary interpretation of past practices, is presented here.
April 13, 2020
Regrettably, as a result of the global coronavirus outbreak, the majority of Nowruz gatherings and celebrations around the world were cancelled. During these challenging times, by discussing the various revered symbolic elements of the sofreh-ye haft sinn on social media, SOFREH: The Art of Persian Celebration aspired to bring good fortune, joy, colour and beauty into the homes of those who celebrate Nowruz. The importance of the figure seven (haft) and the letter “s” (sinn) is visible in the presentations, and as germinated wheat (sabezh) is a vital and vivid part of the sofreh-ye haft sinn, it is included in all the arrangements created around the symbolic elements.
January 26, 2020
For the occasion of Jashn-e Sadeh, this delightful image from the Metropolitan Museum of Art was posted on the book’s social media pages.
Jashn-e Sadeh (Sadeh/Sada Festival) like Nowruz and Mehregan is an ancient Iranian festival. It is celebrated on 10 Bahman (in the Persian calendar), corresponding to around 30 January. The history of Sadeh is ambiguous and complex. To learn more please visit http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/sada-festival.
Here is a simplified version: The origins of Jashn-e Sadeh may be in Zoroastrianism or earlier. It is an important winter festival which was observed by Iranians and was lavishly celebrated in some Persian courts. Apparently the term Sadeh is derived from the Persian word “sad”, which means 100. Jashn-e Sadeh is celebrated on the 100th day of winter, in the ancient calendar when winter had five months. Sadeh fell on the 10th day of the fourth month of winter (3 months, or 90 days, plus 10 days equals 100 days). There are other interpretations for the origins of the term Sadeh such as, on 10 Bahman (around 30 January) there are 50 days and 50 nights (total of 100 or “sad”) left to Nowruz (21 March). The traditions and the festival are closely related to the discovery and honouring of fire, and herald getting close to the conclusion of winter. The celebrations, which take place around a fire, involve getting together, playing music, singing, dancing, wining and dining. Nowadays, these customs are still to a certain extent observed in various parts of Iran.
Please see the description of the image on https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/140009486
November 25, 2019
Chiswick Auctions, Qajar Papier Mâché Panels
These delightful images of 19th-century Qajar papier mâché panels are courtesy of Chiswick Auctions, Islamic & Indian Art Auction, London, 3 May 2019. They were included on the book’s social media pages in November 2019. The message of the illustrations is particularly relevant to the subject of Book Two, Aqd (Aghd).
'SOFREH: The Art of Persian Celebration' provides a comprehensive account, past and present, of the Persian marriage and wedding ceremonies (aqd/arusi), in words and images. For more information, please go to The Book page.
March 16, 2019
IHF Gala Event: This original and elaborate sofreh-ye haft sinn, entitled Seven Scales, was designed and executed by the author for the Nowruz gala event of the Iran Heritage Foundation in London, on March 16, 2019.
March 19, 2018
Iran News Now interviewed Maryam Khosrowshahi, co-author of ‘SOFREH: The Art of Persian Celebration’ about the sofreh tradition and the celebration of Nowruz.
January 15, 2018
Pars Times interview with Maryam Khosrowshahi, co-author of ‘SOFREH: The Art of Persian Celebration’ about her inspiration, writing process, and future plans for the book.
July 19, 2017
Honouring the Sofreh Tradition: An Interview with Maryam Khosrowshahi
This is a highlight video of SOFREH: The Art of Persian Celebration by Kayhan, in conjunction with Honouring the Sofreh Tradition: An Interview with Maryam Khosrowshahi.
SOFREH LAUNCH EVENT, LOS ANGELES at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
February 3, 2018
LACMA hosted a public presentation of SOFREH: The Art of Persian Celebration with co-author Maryam Khosrowshahi and Dr Touraj Daryaee, the Maseeh Chair in Persian Studies and Culture and the Director of the Dr Samuel M Jordan Center for Persian Studies at the University of California, Irvine.
This is a highlight video from the launch of SOFREH: The Art of Persian Celebration at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) on February 3rd, 2018.
SOFREH LAUNCH EVENT, VANCOUVER
September 30, 2015
SOFREH was launched at the Vancouver Club in Vancouver B.C., Canada in September 2015. Over two hundred people attended the event.
SOFREH LAUNCH EVENT, LONDON
March 5, 2015
The private launch of SOFREH took place at a central London location in March 2015 and was attended by over two hundred guests.