The story behind Yalda Night
Longest night of year it’s Shabe Yalda, or the Night of Yalda, is a Persian festival celebrated on the longest and darkest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere i.e., the night of the winter solstice. It is one of the most important ancient Persian traditions which is still practiced today, falling on either the 20th or the 21st of December.
This festival is also called “Shabe Chelleh“, or the Night of the Forty, because it marks the beginning of the first forty days of winter, believed to be the coldest and toughest days of the year.
This festival is celebrated from sunset on the 30th day of the month of Azar (the 9th month of the Persian calendar and the last day of autumn).
Yalda means birth and it refers to the birth of Mitra; the mythological goddess of light. Since days get longer and nights to get shorter in winter, Iranians celebrate the last night of autumn as the renewal of the sun and the victory of light over darkness.
On Shab-e-Yalda, people gather in groups of friends or relatives usually at the home of grandparents or the elderly to pass the longest night of the year happily by eating nuts and fruits, reading Hafiz poems, making good wishes, and talking and laughing all together to give a warm welcome to winter, and a felicitous farewell to autumn.
How is this night celebrated in Iran?
Eating is a delicious part of Yalda Night. Iranians eat nuts, Dried fruit, watermelons, and pomegranates on this special night and share the last remaining fruits from summer together. Fruits of Shab-e-Yalda have symbolic significance as well. Some believe that watermelon symbolizes the sun by its spherical shape while others believe that eating watermelon keeps one safe from being hurt by winter diseases.
Pomegranate is also a symbol of birth and its bright red seeds symbolize the glow of life.Reading poems from Divan-e-Hafiz (Fal-e Hafiz) is an entertaining tradition of Yalda Night. Each of the members of a family or a group of friends makes a wish-while keeping it a secret- and randomly opens the book; then the eldest member of the family or friends reads the randomly selected poem loudly.
Since the poem is believed to be the interpretation of the wish and the way it would come true, it is fun to interpret the poem and guess the wishes others make. In this way, the last and the longest night of autumn comes to an end happily and the first great day of winter begins.
And according to an old Persian belief, sunrise the following day would break the back of darkness, and with its radiance, remove darkness from people’s lives.
As Persians say… Shabe Yalda Mobarak – Happy Yalda Night! And Tokba family would like to say Happy Yalda Night to everyone
Shab-e-Yalda and its traditions are so amusing and interesting that it was officially added to Iran’s List of National Treasures in 2008. Yalda Night is also celebrated in countries such as Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and in some of the Caucasian states such as Azerbaijan and Armenia whilst they share the same traditions as well.