Iranians celebrate Yalda, the Winter Solstice

Monday, December 21, 2015 - 15:41

“The true morning will not come, until the Yalda Night is gone," the great 13th century Persian poet Sa'di writes.

Yalda is one of the most ancient Persian festivals and a traditional Iranian festivity which marks the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.

Based on Ali Akbar Dehkhoda, author of the most extensive dictionary of the Persian language, Chelleh (Night of Forty) or Yalda is "the longest night of the year that Iranians consider it auspicious.”

Iranians around the world celebrate the arrival of winter every year, on December 21 which dates back to the time when a majority of Persians were followers of Zoroastrianism prior to the advent of Islam.

Early Christians linked Yalda to Mithra, goddess of light, and to the birth anniversary of the Prophet Jesus.

The long night of Yalda symbolizes separation from a loved one, loneliness, and waiting in Persian poetry. After Yalda, every things changes. The waiting is over, light shines and goodness prevails.

This ceremony will be celebrated in Austria, Germany, Cyprus, Spain and Belarus by the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization (ICRO).

The main Iranian dish of Yalda is Fesenjan, the rich, tangy Iranian chicken stew with walnuts and pomegranate which is a highlight of the Persian ceremony. Nuts, pomegranates, and watermelons are also consumed on this night.

One of the other traditions of Yalda night is ‘Hafez reading’ from the book of Shamsu d-Din Muhammad Hafez-e Shirazi, the great Persian poet from 14th century AD. Each member of the family makes a wish and randomly opens this book, and what is expressed in that poem is believed to be the interpretation of the wish and its outcome. This tradition is called Faal-e Hafez (The Hafez Omen).

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