Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Yalda

 

     These days, Christian countries around the world are getting ready for Christmas. For Iranians, all around the world, it’s different, because they are getting ready for one of their most important nights of the year: Yalda night or Shab e Chelleh. Every year, Iranians celebrate the arrival of winter on Yalda Night, which is one of the most ancient Persian festivals. This night is on 20 to 21 December according to the Georgian calendar.

Yalda is a Syriac word meaning birth and refers to the birthday or rebirth of the Sun. Yalda is regarded as the longest night of the year. Every year, Iranians celebrate the transition of fall into winter, occurred at the Winter Solstice, like other Persian celebrations coincide with the change of seasons. Yalda indicates the concept of Light and Goodness against Darkness and Evil and the renewal of the Sun.

 

 

This night has been used in many Iranian poems to describe a dark night in which one gets separated from a loved one, creating loneliness and waiting. Other countries such as Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan are also celebrating this night.

 

How do Iranians celebrate Yalda Night?

 

In the past, people were advised to stay awake for most of the night, to prevent any bad luck from happening. People had to gather in the safety of groups of friends and relatives, share the last remaining fruits from the summer, and find ways to pass the long night together in good company.

 

 

On the eve of Yalda bonfires are lit outside and family and friends gather around a Korsi, a low square table covered by a blanket overhanging on all sides with a heater placed under the table. People are usually gathered in the house of the eldest in the family to enjoy the moments of being together. Mixture of nuts including walnuts, almonds, peanuts, raisins, pistachios and hazelnuts, snacks and fruit such as grapes, honeydew melons, watermelons, pomegranates, pears, oranges, tangerines and apples are served. On this night, the oldest member of the family says prayers, thanks God for previous year's blessings, and prays for prosperity in the coming year. Then he cuts the melon and the watermelon and gives everyone a share. The cutting symbolizes the removal of sickness and pain from the family. Snacks are passed around throughout the night, pomegranates with angelica powder and a combination of nuts and dried fruits, particularly pumpkin and watermelon seeds and raisins. The fruits signify the hope for having a fruitful spring and summer. 

The red-colored fruits symbolize the crimson hues of dawn and glow of life, invoking the glory of Mithra. Pomegranates with angelica powder are believed to protect individuals against the Devil. The mixture of nuts literally means night-grazing. Eating nuts is said to lead to prosperity in days to come. Watermelons and yogurt are eaten as a remedy for the heat of the summer, since these fruits are considered cold, ‘sardi’ and Halva is eaten to overcome the cold temperatures of winter, since it is considered hot, ‘garmi’. On into the night of festivities the family keeps the fires burning and the lights glowing to help the sun in its battle against darkness. They recite poetry, play music and tell jokes and stories until dawn.

During this night people read Hafez poetry. Iranians believe in Hafez so much. They make a wish; open the book of Hafez and the first poem they see is the interpretation of the wish and whether and how it will come true.