Tonight, 20-12-2012, Persian speaking people all over the world celebrate Shab-e Yalda (Yalda Night), the longest night of the year.
While I was trying to find out when this celebration was going to take place this year, I stumbled upon a lot of sites stating that this is only celebrated in Iran. Let’s get this out-of-the-way immediately. I’m not Iranian but my family and I celebrate Shab-e Yalda too. In addition to Iran, also Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and some Caucasian states like Azerbaijan and Armenia share the same tradition. Let’s not let some country borders set up by others also divide people with the same cultural background and celebrate this special night together.
Shab-e Yalda is the Persian celebration of the Winter Solstice. It marks the arrival of winter and the rebirth of the sun. It is the eve of the birth of Mithra, the Sun God, who symbolised light, goodness and strength on earth.
Three things are served during the night:
1. Watermelon: Beginning the winter by eating summer fruits so that one would not fall ill during the cold season.
2. Pomegranate: The purple covering of this fruit symbolizes birth and the bright red seeds the glow of life.
3. Nuts and dried fruits: Eating these leads to prosperity in days to come.
During Shab-e Yalda bonfires are lit outside and the lights are glowing to help the sun in its battle against the darkness. Everybody stays awake the whole night to watch the sun triumphantly reappear in the morning. Shab-e Yalda is also a turning point, after which the days grow longer.
It’s tradition for families to get together at the house of the oldest member. For centuries it has also become common to recite poetry by Hafez. What they do is called “Faal-e Hafez“, each member of the family makes a wish and randomly opens one of his volumes. After that, the person asks the eldest member of the family to read it aloud. What is expressed in that particular poem is believed to be the interpretation of the wish and whether/how it will come true. Here’s a website with Faal-e Hafez in English: http://www.hafizonlove.com/fal.htm.
I wish everybody a happy Shab-e Yalda, I hope you enjoy this night.
*the image at the top of this post is from Sahartv.ir