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With spring around the corner, Iranians everywhere are preparing for the Persian New Year with food, music and rituals — and for the first time, so is Mickey Mouse.
In a video published earlier this week by Disney Junior on YouTube, Mickey is seen getting ready for Nowruz and teaching children how they can partake in celebrations. The 13-day holiday, which begins on March 20 this year and marks the first day of spring, means “new day” in Persian.
The holiday is celebrated by millions around the world including Middle Eastern and South Asian countries like Afghanistan, Turkey, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan.
“I’m so excited to share with you a very special holiday celebration: Nowruz, it’s the Persian New Year,” Mickey says in the video, before jumping over fire to welcome spring (a tradition on “Chaharshanbeh Suri”). Mickey also showcases his “haftseen,” a table that features seven symbolic items to celebrate the New Year, and later dances to Persian music.
Iranians have widely shared the video on Instagram and Twitter, where it was met with both surprise and excitement. Some said that it is the first time they recall ever seeing the holiday depicted in pop culture. Others were emotional seeing such an iconic character celebrating their beloved holiday.
Alireza Ardekani, the executive director at the Iranian American nonprofit organization Farhang Foundation, said he found the video after his 8-year-old niece showed it to him.
“We celebrate Nowruz every year and she was shocked to see that Mickey Mouse was talking about Nowruz and celebrating it,” he said. “I was as just excited because that was news to me and I’d never seen anything like this before, having Nowruz celebrated and amplified on such a scale, especially for young children.”
Ardekani said he believes videos like this are a great way to educate children who aren’t Iranian in an accessible and digestible form, taking some of that responsibility off Iranian children.
“The reach that Disney has is tremendous on a global scale,” he said. “Children from ethnic minority backgrounds always feel like they have to explain themselves or explain their traditions where the mainstream traditions don’t need any explanation.”
This isn’t Mickey’s first holiday celebration. Back in October, Disney Junior released a video where he taught viewers the meaning and traditions of the Indian holiday Diwali.
In an email statement, Alyssa Sapire, senior vice president of development, series and strategy at Disney Junior, told NBC News that the goal of the “Me & Mickey” shorts is to “invite preschoolers to laugh and play along with Mickey as he talks about everyday topics familiar to their lives, while also spurring curiosity about the world around them by exploring new places and celebrating holidays from many different cultures.”
It means a lot to me personally to be able to introduce this beautiful holiday to those that may not know about it, while also providing that type of representation for other young Persian kids like my daughter.
-Chris Ultimo, the art director of VFX and animation for Disney Branded Television
Chris Ultimo, the art director of VFX and animation for Disney Branded Television, said he found inspiration for Mickey’s newest celebration in his own home. He said his wife is Persian and knew he wanted to highlight Nowruz so his daughter could see her culture represented on screen.
“I’m so happy that it has resonated with other young children and their families watching at home,” he told NBC News in an email statement. “It means a lot to me personally to be able to introduce this beautiful holiday to those that may not know about it, while also providing that type of representation for other young Persian kids like my daughter.”
Online, Iranians continue to share their joy over the clip.
“Knowing Iranians inside Iran can feel more seen because of this video or that Iranians in the diaspora can have a resource to share with future generations or non-Iranian friends has us in our feels,” influencer Mandy Ansari Jensen wrote in an Instagram post.
“This is something I couldn’t even dream up as a child who would walk to the little Iranian market to rent pirated children’s videos in Persian to get a small slice of the culture and traditions I hold so dear. This is something that generations to come will cherish.”
“@Disney made a video of Mickey Mouse wishing folks a happy Persian New Year (March 20th, the 1st day of Spring),” another person tweeted. “He even says it in Persian at the end. Incredible. Did not expect this!”
“MICKEY MOUSE IS CELEBRATING NOROOZ!!!! I REPEAT! MICKEY MOUSE IS CELEBRATING PERSIAN NEW YEAR!!!!” wrote another Twitter user.
“A reminder that representation in entertainment matters: My dad texted me this video of Mickey Mouse explaining Nowruz, and I teared up imagining kids everywhere watching this,” wrote another user. “Thank you to the team at Disney who made it happen.”
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Mickey Mouse celebrates Persian New Year. Iranians are thrilled by the representation. – NBC News