Tonight, light will prevail over darkness! Not Harry Potter nor Star Wars, let me introduce you to the feast of Yalda, one of the most important celebrations in Iran.
Believe me, this will cast a spell on you!
From darkness to light
“The night of Yalda” celebrates the longest night of the year (the famous winter solstice) and the beginning of winter. Beyond this purely astronomical aspect, this night also marks the birth of Mithra, Goddess of the Sun.
So to understand this feast, it is important to remember that Persia’s first religion was Zoroastrianism before it became a Muslim country during the 7 th century. Zoroastrianism is a pagan religion whose rituals remain celebrated by Iranians. The night of Yalda is a tradition dating back to Pre-Islamic ancient Persia. Mithra then represented the goddess who protected the world from darkness and whom people called for protection during long winter nights. On this night, Iranians celebrate the victory of light over darkness, of Good over Evil. Cheers to that!
In Iranian ceremonies, food is always important and symbolic. Obviously, Iranians like to eat and the night of Yalda is an excellent excuse for filling their bellies.
Iranians gather with relatives around a sofreh (a tablecloth), composed of summer fruits such as watermelons (symbol of good health), pomegranates (symbol of the life cycle) or persimmons. All of these were kept aside during summer especially for this occasion. The selected fruits should be red as this colour symbolizes fire, the Sun, and therefore Life. The sofreh contains also nuts and dried fruits, symbols of prosperity and success.
Keep it going all night long
Once the meal finished, people gather around a good tea telling stories and spending some quality time with family until the end of the night.
It is also very common to read verses by the great poet Hafez, whose poems are today used as divinatory consultations: you must first make a wish and then open the book of Hafiz randomly. The first verses you’ll read are expected to be the answer to your wish!
On this high note, and not having a watermelon anywhere near, I’m off to eat a beautiful red tomato (we said it must be red 🙂 )
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