According to realiran.org, 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. In fact, Yalda is much more highlighted than Christmas in the streets of Iran. Let me explain to you what Yalda night is.
What is Yalda night?
Yalda means birth. Yalda night is a beautiful ancient Iranian celebration. Iranians are celebrating the longest and darkest night of the year or winter solstice. This night is on December 20-21 according to the Georgian calendar. It should be mentioned that Iranians use a different calendar, the Iranian calendar. According to this calendar, Yalda night is the last evening of the autumn day or ‘the night opening the initial forty-day period of the three-month winter’.
Why Iranians celebrate Yalda night?
This celebration is coming from the time when a majority of Persians were followers of Zoroastrianism prior to the advent of Islam. Ancient Persians believed that evil forces were dominant on the longest night of the year and that the next day belonged to the Lord of Wisdom, Ahura Mazda.
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 does Iranian celebrate Yalda night?
In the Zoroastrian era, 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.
This same culture still exist. Every Yalda night, people are gathering with their loved ones. They would especially go to their grandparents’ house. Eat, drink and read poetry (Hafez) during the whole the evening to pass the darkest evening of the year with laughter and joy. Iranians believe those who begin winter by eating summer fruits would not fall ill during the cold season. Honestly this evening is filled with different type of food. Gaining weight is very common in that evening!
The most important fruits of the evening are pomegranate, the jewel of all fruits, and watermelon. Without them, there is no Yalda night. The color of these fruits symbolizes the cycle and glow of life. These days you can find everything in the shape and color of these fruit such as cake, cupcakes or even in home accessories.
During this night people also read Hafez poetry. People make a wish, open a book of Hafez and the first poem they see is the interpretation of the wish and whether and how it will come true.
So in Yalda night, each member of the family makes a wish and randomly opens the book and asks the eldest member of the family to read it aloud.