Iranian families gathering around the big pots of stew

The thirteenth day of the new Iranian year (usually about 2nd April), is the national day of Picnic, known in Persian calendar as the day of Nature, when all of the Iranian families are packing their lunch and going out in a park and even further and outside the city to spend the day and finish the vacation of the new year. This day is dedicated to celebrating the refreshment of nature at the beginning of the spring, as well as ending the Persian New Year Celebrations with a family gathering.

But the story does not end here, and Iranian are continuing this tradition almost in any opportunity possible. This is one of the surprising aspects of Iranian culture, not only the foreigners but sometimes, I, as an Iranian, am surprised by the effort that Iranian put into this tradition. I am talking about going to out for Picnic. It is a widely spread tradition in Iran to seize any opportunity to go out with the family members and take an enormous amount of food, tea, snacks and even Hooka (Qalyan) and some pillow with you to lay down and spend half a day anywhere pleasant. This tradition has made Iran unofficially the capital of the picnic and in an ironic way, we do not have a Persian name for this action. It is not unlikely that at some occasions you see people laying down on the lawn of a busy square with jammed traffic around them or on the middle line in a boulevard at the center of the city.

In my personal opinion about the best spots to make a pleasant picnic is during spring in the evening in Isfahan, on Naqsh-e Jahan square. This is where you will meet numerous Iranian families gathering around on the lawn, chatting and having an evening snack or dinner and eager to talk to tourists and share their food with them. Having a picnic with an Iranian family might not be listed in your guide book but it can be one of the very unique and original experiences of your travel and you will be surprised by the sense of humor of the people of my country and their passion for tea.

an afternoon in Ispahan

However, this beautiful and joyful tradition has some negative aspects as well as the rush of people to nature can harm the environment and the animals living in those areas. The piles of garbage are another problem with this huge number of people going to nature and living their plastic bottles and garbage behind. This is one of the most negative and saddest aspects of my culture; Fortunately, during the recent years there are more and more environmentalist groups and activists who are encouraging people to respect nature and treat it with respect and care, there are even groups of mountain climbers and nature adventurers who are holding events for going to the mountain, jungles, sea beaches and clean them up together. After all, nature is our host and we are its guests, the basic rule is to treat your host with enough care and respect.