The Persian New Year, or Norooz or Nowruz, is celebrated with a concert, fires and festivities in mid-March each year in West Vancouver at Ambleside Park.
Norooz Fire Festival
The Persian New Year begins around March 19th each year, which is typically the same day as the Spring Equinox. The Norooz Fire Festival in West Vancouver, meanwhile, usually takes place a couple of days before the Persian New Year.
Vancouver’s North Shore has a large Iranian population and in good years as many as 10,000 to 15,000 people turn out for the West Vancouver celebrations.
The Persian New Year event in West Vancouver offers the Lower Mainland’s best opportunity to experience Persian culture, New Year’s celebrations and even a bit of Persian rock and roll.
When and Where
West Vancouver’s Norooz Fire Festival takes place around March 17th most years. Unfortunately it was cancelled in 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak. 2021 is the same. Hopefully it can happen again in 2022.
In years when the event does happen, it typically runs from 5:00 until 10:30 pm, but doesn’t start to get busy until 7:00 or so. The fire jumping usually starts at around 6:00 pm.
Ambleside Park is located at 1150 Marine Drive in West Vancouver. The festival takes place there in a large flat gravel area at the far end of the main grassy field not far from the park’s baseball diamond.
There is a fair bit of parking at Ambleside Park, but far from enough for all 10,000 attendees. Unless you are really early, chances are you’ll need to park on a street a fair ways away and walk to the venue. If you can, carpool or take public transit.
What to Expect
Nowruz festivities at Ambleside include Persian music, food, dancing and fire jumping. As with every year, all are welcome and thousands turn out.
At Ambleside’s annual Persian New Year Fire Festival there are stalls selling food and a rock concert. You don’t have to understand the Persian language, or Farsi, to enjoy the tunes and the atmosphere.
Also at the festivities is fire jumping, where people can jump over a series of burning fires. It’s fun to watch and a bit crazy to do, as the West Vancouver Fire Department thought in 2015 when they arrived soon before 10 pm and put all the fires out. Even without the fires for the last hour, however, the 2015 Fire Festival was still a great event.
Fire Festival Admission
Admission to the Nowruz event at Ambleside in recent years has been about $10 and it’s well worth it, assuming you like outdoor rock concerts and crowds of people. The music is good – in both English and Farsi – and the atmosphere is fun and celebratory.
Lots of children attend the Nowruz Fire Festival event, in addition to thousands of adults. Admission for younger children is free.
About Norooz & the Fire Festival
Norooz or Nowruz is the name of the Persian New Year which takes place at the time of the Spring Equinox, so around March 21st plus or minus a day each year. It is celebrated in Iran and by Persians around the world, including in the Lower Mainland and West Vancouver.
The annual Festival of Fire is a Persian tradition that takes place in the evening of the Tuesday before Norooz. Known as Chaharshanbe Suri, the festival involves outdoor bonfires and people leaping over them. Participants often sing or chant while doing their jumping and the practice is considered a rite of purification in preparation for the New Year.
At the Chaharshanbe Suri event at Ambleside Park, at the edge of the festival venue, two or three rows of bonfires are set up. Anyone who wishes can line up and jump over them. It’s interesting to watch, and even to do (so long as you are careful)!
The festival starts out slowly, but as the evening progresses thousands of people fill the venue. It’s impressive!
For an idea of what to expect, especially during the evening concert, check out the following video.
Tips & Advice
Below is a list of suggestions to help you make the most out of your experience at the West Vancouver Fire Festival.
TIP #1: Be careful around the fires, especially if participating in the fire jumping or if you have young children. It can be fun, but fires can be dangerous, so jump at your own risk! As it so happens, a couple of years ago, a lady tripped, burned her hand and had to be taken to hospital. Also, it seems that at least a couple of people sprain their ankles each year! Good thing St. John’s Ambulance attendants are on hand to assist!
TIP #2: Especially if you are not of Iranian descent and eat Persian food regularly, be adventurous and try some of the exotic foods at the fair. It’s not what you’ll find every day and some of it is quite delicious.
TIP #3: If you arrive early you’ll increase your chances of finding parking, but you’ll also likely find the place quite bare. Most people don’t start arriving until later in the evening, and that’s when things get interesting.
To learn more about the holiday, its history and how it’s celebrated around the world, see the Wikipedia website.
For a list of other things of interest on the North Shore and throughout the Lower Mainland, check out any of the following: