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Iranian Fire Festival under threat

In Tehran, the capital of Iran, the big boss Ayatollah Khamenei has asked his people to boycott the Persian fire festival (Chaharshanbeh-Suri) which is scheduled for Tuesday. He called the festival un-Islamic as it is essentially praising fire and said it causes harm and corruption. Going on to say that it is best avoided.

The festival is very old, dating back to before the 7th Century when the country was mainly Zoroastrian (what’s this? I hear you ask. It’s a proper old religion from before Islam was in Iran, ooh, I hear you say)

Traditionally Iranians have celebrated the fire festival by lighting bonfires and jumping through the flames. All innocent - if foot scorching - fun.

Recently people have died in the region while making firecrackers for the festival and many fireworks shops there have been closed down.

The authorities are reportedly a bit worried that the governments' opposition will use the traditional festival as a chance for protesting against the June 2009 re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – at this point its all gone a bit political so we are best not saying anything more on that subject.

Back to the fireworks, 128 people have been arrested for producing and distributing, wait for it, up to 3,000,000 fireworks around the city! Yes, 3 Million!! That’s a lot of firecrackers.

For the last 2 months, the police in Tehran have been cracking down on firecrackers, sparklers and rockets and even home-made grenades. They have urged citizens to report any illegal firework activity to the local police.

The Chaharshanbeh-Suri (Fire Festival) festival takes place on March 16 the last Tuesday of the old year. Which is a bit odd as the word Chaharshanbeh means Wednesday and Suri is red. The red symbolises the burning sun, as do the bonfires. They are kept alight all night to welcome the New Year.

Each year, there are many injuries due to the fire festival, last year there were 1817 reported accidents requiring medical treatment, three people were killed and four others were seriously injured. Not sure whether this is due to the improper use of fireworks or the bouncing over bonfires. Either way, we do not recommend using dodgy fireworks or jumping through fire but we do wish good luck to the people of Iran in their celebrations and hope this year’s event is accident-free.

It is not only Iranians that like to hurl their body through flames, it seems to be a human thing in general and all around the world, there are examples of festivals and celebrations where it is customary to risk life and limb in order to be seen hurtling yourself bodily over bonfires. The picture above is from the Lewes bonfire night celebrations in the UK, where visitors from around the country are positively discouraged from attending.

This dude will almost certainly have a burnt posterior in the morning.

Nutters Revellers at the Noche de San Juan (your thinking, night of St John? No, "Midsummer" believe it or not) celebrations in Spain throw themselves over the bonfire in an age-old celebration where people watch each other get burned.n>

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