TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iranians flocked to parks and orchards this week for picnics to celebrate the ancient festival of Sizdeh Bedar, the last day of the Persian new year holiday.
Families sipped small cups of tea, munched on nuts and ate a traditional lunch of rice, meat and potatoes on Monday to mark a holiday that predates Islam.
Iranians believe it is bad luck to stay indoors on Sizdeh Bedar, the 13th day of Nowruz, the Persian New Year that began March 21. But because this year's festival coincided with mourning ceremonies for an important Shiite Muslim saint, some people stayed at home or attended ceremonies to mark the death anniversary of Hussein, the grandson of Islam's 7th century Prophet Muhammad.
Iran's ruling clerical establishment, which discourages pre-Islamic festivals, issued a statement on Sunday calling on Iranians to attend mourning ceremonies.
''Neither mourning ceremonies nor Sizdeh Bedar should be ignored at each other's expense. Moderation and respect for both is what most Iranians support,'' said Mohammad Hassan Tarzi, a picknicker smoking a water pipe at a park.
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