The Scallion Wars: Passover, Iranian Style

I’m a Jewish Iranian Iraqi American.

Yes, it’s a mouthful. Every year my family would have a Passover Seder. My mother would cook and clean for a week until relatives appeared, often sleeping over on any available surface in our house. My dad would sit at the head of the table with his special Hagada (prayer book), and lead a ritual that lasted all evening long.

When I was a teenager, I invited a few of my American Jewish friends over for Passover, excited that I would have some company during the six hour service my father proudly held in our home. This is when I learned the following:

1. Usually people take “shortcuts” during the Passover Seder. My friends were going into diabetic shock waiting for the meal to actually begin.

2. Some people conduct their Seder in English. Others conduct it in Hebrew.

But only a very few conduct it in a dying Hebrew/Persian pidgeon language that no person under 50 understands.

Thus my Dad’s special Hagada.

3. Most Jews do not throw scallions at each other during the Seder let alone chase each other around the room whipping said scallions at each other.

In fact, we have two unusual rituals involving scallions. During the first, you grab a few scallions, tear them in two with your hands and throw them over your shoulders. This is to symbolize BREAKING THE BACKS OF YOUR ENEMIES AND GETTING RID OF THEM. Whoa is right. The next takes place during a song called “Diyanu”. We sing the song and simultaneously use the scallions as a weapon, flinging them across the room, flog our neighbors at the table, and chasing each other around the table until it’s gotten way out of hand. Everyone is brought to tears with laughter, and it takes more than a few minutes to gain our composure and continue the Seder.

Whether you are Jewish or not, you should get yourself invited to a Jewish Iranian Seder. You get to eat delicious Persian food and freely behave like a four year old. What’s not to like?

It is possible to compare a Seder to a film set. It takes a lot of people, a lot of time, a great deal of seriousness and a sense of humor too. So I am combining the two – my passion (film-making) and my culture – and making a short film called “America 1979.” It’s the first film I’ve made about my Iranian American heritage and I’m looking forward to sharing a story that you might be able to relate to or learn from.

It’s about a 9 year old Iranian American girl who experiences racism at school, and how it trickles down through her family. What makes this film different is that the girl is Iranian American, and it takes place during the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis.

Yes, it’s a lot more serious than my Seder story, but I think it’s an important story that needs to be told so that we can strengthen the voice of the Iranian diaspora.

If this is a film you would like to see, visit, to learn more about it, and make a donation that will go directly toward the making of the film. The fundraiser ends August 20th, so don’t sleep!





Lila لیلا

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  1. Naseem Joon says:

    Lila joon,

    Your story made me laugh so hard, and I imagined such colorful scenarios. I wish I could have experienced that Seder with you. Good luck on your film project, and thanks for sharing a story that reinforces both familial and cultural values.



  1. […] I felt honored to write this comedic expose of Passover Iranian Style for a great blog called Sex and Fessenjoon. […]

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