Nowruz potluck lunch set for April 4

Posted on March 31, 2016

ECE professor organizes celebrations of Iranian culture


EXPRESSING CULTURE: Queen’s ECE professor Alireza Bakhshai hosts regular Persian poetry nights at his Kingston home. “They come to my house around nine and last time they left about 3 am,” he says. “They enjoy, they play cards and sometimes they sing and dance."

The Queen’s community is a diverse one with students and faculty attending from all over the world. That cultural diversity represents one of the great advantages of studying here but for individuals leaving home or settling into a new city it can be a challenging adjustment. One way to ease the transition and honour our differences is to connect with others for the celebration and exercise of cultural expression.

One Queen’s engineering professor not only lauds the value inherent in fostering those connections but opens his home, his kitchen and even his creative heart to actively celebrate Persian culture for Iranian expatriates and their friends among the Queen’s community. Queen’s Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) professor Alireza Bakhshai organizes Persian holiday celebrations throughout the year. He hosts regular get-togethers at his home and even cooks for hundreds of people of at a time to mark Nowruz, the Persian New Year. He’s been at it since 2006.

“We do it because we want to introduce our culture,” says Bakhshai. “And none of the activities can take place without the help of Iranian graduate students, Queen’s University, the ECE staff and colleagues, my family and other Iranians in Kingston.”

Most recently he and some Queen’s students organized a celebration of Chaharshanbe Suri. Called in English the Festival of Fire, it’s held on the Wednesday evening before the vernal equinox that marks Nowruz. Part of the traditional celebration involves leaping over a bonfire. It was held this year at Richardson Stadium.


A FEAST FOR THE SENSES: Last year’s Nowruz potluck attracted as many as 200 people. This year’s installment is coming up on April 4.

“Believe me, to get permission from the fire department and from Queen’s to have an open fire, listen to music and dance was not an easy job,” says Bakhshai. “But there’s a bus driver who stops by every year, jumps over the fire and then leaves.”

Another of Bakhshai’s annual events is a belated Nowruz feast held in the grad lounge in Walter Light Hall this year on April 4. It’s a potluck lunch to which as many as a couple of hundred people attend each year.

“I make most of the food for it,” says Bakhshai. “I make big dishes. The students usually bring food for five or six people, so if you come late you can have only my food. If you come early you might get some of theirs. We can have some appetizers, some sweets.”

If you’d like to learn more about or celebrate Iranian culture email Bakshai at alireza.bakhshai[at] He hosts regular Persian poetry nights and get-togethers at his home and hosts an informational Yahoo group to help connect community members.  

Nowruz potluck
Monday, April 4, 2016, 12pm
ECE Grad Club Walter Light Hall 314
Bring Iranian foods or drinks for the potluck.