While you were spending your spring break at the beach getting tropical, First Lady Michelle Obama was in D.C. getting cultural.
The First Lady held a celebration in the East Room of the White House on Wednesday in honor of Nowruz, the Iranian New Year. Here’s what you missed:
1. Celebrating culture
To introduce Obama, University of Maryland student Ashley Azmoodeh spoke about her own family’s connection to the holiday and its importance.
“The most memorable celebration from my childhood, one that we continue to celebrate annually, is Nowruz, meaning ‘New Day,’” Azmoodeh said.
The First Lady paid homage to the holiday by noting its long history and cultural significance for people around the world.
“For more than 3,000 years, families and communities in the Middle East, Asia and all around the world, including here in the United States, have celebrated this holiday to mark the renewal of the Earth in spring time,” Obama said.
Obama also presented the White House Haft Seen, the traditional table setting of Nowruz. The Haft Seen, which translates to “the seven S’s,” features seven items placed on a table to symbolize seven new hopes for the new year, including blessings, patience, love, sweetness and rebirth.
2. Local traditions with a worldview
Nowruz at the White House was designed as a celebration of diversity and global connections. Guests, including local leaders in business, education, government and entertainment, packed the East Room.
Keeping with the local trend, guest chef Maziar Farivar of the Peacock Cafe in Georgetown cooked a meal for the guests. The menu aimed to celebrate the importance of family by taking old family recipes from White House staffers and giving them a gourmet upgrade.
“I think it’s so fitting that we’re holding this celebration here today because one of my favorite things about the White House is how it is truly the people’s house,” Obama said. “A house that reflects the diversity of culture and traditions that make us who we are as a country, and Nowruz is one of those traditions.”
The Maryland-based Silk Road Dance Company also performed dances from around the world.
“I hope that you feel at home, and feel the welcome, the love, the spirit of this holiday,” Obama said. “I hope you enjoy the food, the friendship and just being at the White House. Isn’t it cool?”
3. The renewal of a ‘new day’
During her remarks, the First Lady talked about the changing weather and arrival of spring in D.C., connecting spring to the themes of rebirth and renewal celebrated for Nowruz.
While presenting the White House Haft Seen, Obama mentioned some items that were displayed on the table.
“We’ve got grass sprouts that represent rebirth and renewal and nature. We’ve got an apple for health and beauty. We have crushed berry spice that represent the sunrise and the spice of life,” she said. “And after a long winter, we could use a little bit of all of that, right? We’re finally thawing out.”