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Security beefed up ahead of Iranian fire festival

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  • Security beefed up ahead of Iranian fire festival

    Iran has deployed hundreds of police across Tehran ahead of the beginning of Persian New Year celebrations.

    Authorities fear the occasion will be used by opposition supporters to protest against last year's disputed presidential election results.
    The festival, called Chahar-Shanbe Suri, celebrates the coming of spring and dates back to Zoroastrian Persia, before Islam.

    It is celebrated on the eve of the last Wednesday before Norouz, the Persian New Year.

    Authorities say it is heretical fire-worship.

    On the eve of last Wednesday of the year, literally the eve of 'Red Wednesday' or the eve of celebration, bonfires are lit in public places with the help of fire and light, it is hoped for enlightenment and happiness throughout the coming year. People leap over the flames, shouting:

    Sorkhi-ye to az man; Zardi-ye man az to
    Give me your beautiful red colour; And take back my sickly pallor
    Traditionally, it is believed that the living were visited by the spirits of their ancestors on the last day of the year. Many people specially children, wrap themselves in shrouds symbolically re-enacting the visits. By the light of the bonfire, they run through the streets banging on pots and pans with spoons called Qashog-Zani to beat out the last unlucky Wednesday of the year, while they knock on doors to ask for treats. Indeed, Halloween is a Celtic variation of this night.