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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — More than 200 members of the Iranian-American community in North Alabama came out Saturday night for the Persian New Year party in downtown Huntsville.

The ancient holiday is referred to as Nowruz, pronounced “No-Rooz,” in Iran and other central Asian countries, and is celebrated by people of different religions. Partygoers said this year’s celebration was extra special because the holiday is about being with family and having fun, something that was hard to do during COVID-19 spikes.

“This celebration, it means the world to me,” said Pedram Maleknia, a Huntsville native. “Being in the medical field, I’ve seen what COVID has done. And to have the community come back together, a community that I’ve lived with for 24 years, right? A lot of these people know me longer than I’ve known myself. And just being able to come back and dance, enjoy good Persian food and celebrate Nowruz with all the people I love, it means a great deal.”

Nowruz is observed each year at the start of spring, making the Persian calendar the most accurate in the world.

Last year, Mayor Tommy Battle officially declared March 20 as Nowruz in the city of Huntsville.

Spring officially begins at 10:33:25 on Sunday morning.