Iranian Graduate Student Association holds Nowruz celebration

Students, community members gather to celebrate Persian New Year


Maliheh Karamigolbaghi said she often feels homesick and miserable around the Persian New Year, so she wanted to host a Nowruz celebration to help alleviate homesickness that many Iranian students may feel.

“We don’t have any club or organization right now that makes the people get together, see each other and feel like they are home, so they are not lonely,” said Karamigolbaghi, a Ph.D. student in civil, structural and environmental engineering and president of the Iranian Graduate Student Association. “Especially for students who recently have visa issues -- their parents cannot come and visit them during this time of celebration.”

The celebration, organized by IGSA, is a traditional Iranian holiday to commemorate the start of the solar new year.

Harriman Hall was abuzz with flashing multicolored lights and pulsating Iranian pop music with roughly 150 attendees. They enjoyed a traditional Persian meal, which was followed by an opportunity to purchase cultural wares from vendors. The night ended with dancing.

Nowruz begins on the first day of spring and lasts for two weeks, according to Karamigolbaghi.

“The name Nowruz comes from new day,” Karamigolbaghi said. “It is about family getting together, having food and visiting elders in the family.”

Persians believe Nowruz promotes values of peace and solidarity between generations and within families as well as “reconciliation and neighborliness,” said Roozbeh Nayerhoda, a Ph.D. student in biomedical engineering and senator for IGSA.

Samaneh Moghadasi, a Ph.D. student in chemical engineering, said she felt the celebration helped her feel more in touch with her culture and Iran.

“You get to see all of your friends from the same country and you see the traditions from your country, so you feel connected to your culture,” Moghadasi said.

The event featured cultural traditions, such as Eydi, or the giving of gifts, according to Karamigolbaghi. 

Another tradition is putting seven things that start with the letter “S” on the table. Some of these items include apples –– “sib” in Persian –– and sabzeh, a type of potted grass. Sabzeh symbolizes birth and growth and is an integral part of any Nowruz celebration, Moghadasi explained. Several guests brought tin pots of sabzeh that they had grown and placed them on display at the event.

Haleh Rastakhiz, a UB alum, took her 4-year-old son to the event to expose him to Persian culture.

“He doesn’t have a sense of the Persian community beyond family,” Rastakhiz said. “We thought we would come and check it out so we could show my son there are other Persians, that we’re not the only ones.”

Rastakhiz plans to take her son to Iran someday, but in the meantime she hopes to make connections with the Iranian community in Buffalo. She said the Nowruz celebration was a good start toward that goal.

“Although you don’t know everybody that’s in this room, it still gives you that sense of community,” Rastakhiz said.

Correction: The original article stated Nowruz organized by IGSA, is a traditional Iranian holiday to commemorate the start of the lunar new year.

Maddy Fowler is the editorial editor and can be reached at and @mmfowler13.