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Celebrating Yalda Night

December 18, 2007 by Tahmineh

Celebrating Yalda Night

Shab-e-Yalda (21st or 22nd of December), the longest night of the year, is celebrated every year in Iran to acknowledge the triumph of goodness over the power of darkness. Originally the winter solstice was attributed to the birth of the Sun God, Mithra.

Although this tradition dates back to Aryans migrant, over centuries it was spread trough Asia Minor to Rome and Greece. In the 4th century AD due to some errors in calculation, the birthday of Mithra was changed to 25th of December and linked to Jesus's birthday for a while.

During centuries in spite of adopting different religions by Iranians this tradition has managed to endure. It is a time when family and friends spend a joyful night together by eating, drinking, reading poetry (most of the time Hafiz), playing music, and telling stories. In other word, they manage to have fun till well after midnight and stay together while sun is combating the darkest night of the year.

Celebrating Yalda NightFoods that serve in the Yalda night, like all other parts of the ceremony, symbolize the overcome of health, and prosperity to illness and failure.

After praying and thanking God for all the blessings, the oldest member of the family cuts and gives a share of the thick yogurt, the melon, and the watermelon to each family member and this symbolize the removal of pain from their lives. Likewise, a combination of nuts and dried fruits is served to bring wealth in days to come. Chicken eggplant stew serves with saffron-flavored rice to help overcoming the cold temperature of the winter as eggplant, and saffron are considered Garmi (according to medieval medicine and the science of balance of humors, Garmi means hot).

After dinner different desserts are eaten to represent the balance of seasons: Saffron and Carrot brownies (halva) which are considered Garmi or hot and appropriate for winter coldness, pomegranates with gol-par (angelica powder), and watermelon slices (cold/Sardi) are great remedies for summer hotness.

Finally the sun will shine trough darkness and lightness of the days will gradually increase till summer time. But this is a never ending battle between darkness and light, and soon there will be another Yalda night, another family gathering, and lots of delicious treats.

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