The White House this week celebrated Nowruz, the Persian New Year most often observed by Iranians.
The festivities come amid tense negotiations between the White House and Tehran. President Obama hopes Iran will slow or stop its nuclear weapons program in exchange for removing economic sanctions.
First Lady Michelle ObamaMichelle ObamaHollywood, DC come together for First Amendment-themed VIP party Capitol File partygoers praise low-key start to correspondents’ dinner weekend USDA to ease school meal standards MORE praised the holiday in remarks at the executive mansion Wednesday. The event featured a Persian dinner and a dance troop’s performance.
“I think it’s so fitting we’re holding this celebration here today,” Michelle Obama said. “One of the things I love about the White House is how it truly is the people’s house. It is a house that reflects the diversity of culture and traditions that make us who we are as a country. Nowruz is one of those traditions.”
The U.S. is targeting a tentative outline of the deal by the end of the month.
Britain, France, China, Germany and Russia are aiding America’s efforts, with talks resuming in Lausanne, Switzerland, next week.
A group of 47 GOP Senators revolted against President Obama’s strategy Monday, sending Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, an open letter promising Congress will end any agreement it finds harms American interests.
Obama on Friday said he was “embarrassed” by the lawmaker’s actions. Khamenei, meanwhile, criticized it Thursday as proof of Western “tricks and deceptions” in the negotiations.
The first lady made no mention of Iran in Wednesday’s speech. She did praise the ancient festival as one of “family and community.”
“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 springtime,” she said. “It’s to reflect on the year before and make new commitments to good health and prosperity in the year ahead.”
Nowruz marks the start of both spring and the beginning of the Persian calendar each year.
A central facet of Nowruz celebrations are “Haft Sin,” or “the seven S’s” in Persian. Participants display seven items (all beginning with “S” in Persian) as symbols of new hopes for the next year.
The first lady said Wednesday the White House has its own Haft Sin display this Nowruz. Example she cited included an apple for beauty, grass for rejuvenation and crushed berry spices for “the spice of life.”