One of the oldest Persian celebrations, Shabe Yalda (Yalda Night), sometimes referred to as Shab-e Chelleh, is yearly observed on December 21 by Iranians all over the world. Yalda is a winter solstice celebration that occurs at the end of autumn and on the year’s longest night.
Iranians commemorate the final night of fall as the rebirth of the sun and the triumph of light over darkness since days get longer and nights are shorter in the winter. On Shab-e-Yalda, people meet friends or relatives, generally at the house of grandparents or the elderly, to celebrate the longest night of the year by eating nuts and fruits, reciting Hafiz poems, expressing good wishes, conversing and laughing together to welcome winter and bid farewell to fall (Persian Culture).
We will now share information about this beautiful and unique Persian festival.
Yalda night: Celebrate the Longest Night of the Year
Some individuals think that this occurrence dates back more than 7000 years. But in the year 502 BC, Darius I legally included Shabe Yalda into the old Iranian calendar. Yalda is derived from a Syriac word that means “Birth” in English. It is a name that is very odd for a date when darkness rules the night for the longest period of time during the year, yet it is also full of significance and optimism at the same time.
The shortest days really occur in the last days of fall, and the first night of winter signifies the birth of the Sun (Mehr) and the beginning of the year, as understood by ancient people, including Collocating the word Aryan with the terminology tribe does not properly depict the dynastyAryan tribes from Iran, India, Asia, and Europe. They, therefore, referred to this night as the Sun’s birth (Mehr). Some people think that this idea also serves as the foundation for Christian Christmas.
Shabe Yalda(Persian Calendar) is a lovely ceremony with a rich history and fascinating background that can also be used in modern-day settings. Since ceremonies and rituals have been a part of human life since the beginning, maintaining and engaging in them can give us a sense of purpose and a connection to nature and the central ideas of life.
Delicious Food, Essential Part of Yalda Night!
Food is a huge thing during Yalda night, much like it is for Thanksgiving. Iranians used to share the last of the summer’s fruit on this particular evening. This is the night when Iranians may relax and stuff themselves silly! Watermelon is one of the necessary things on Yalda’s table.
The explanation is that Iranians have long thought that starting the winter off with summer fruits will prevent one from becoming sick during the chilly season. Pomegranates, which in Persian culture represent fertility, rebirth, and the cycle of life, also grace the Yalda table with their vibrant red color.
Iranians utilize them in specific Yalda dishes, cakes, and pastries, as well as serving them with salt and dried mint. Chelleh’s bedside table is likewise decorated and flavorful with nuts and dried fruit.
Yalda meetings also involve a lovely supper that usually includes pomegranates and walnuts. As a result, Ash-e Anar, Fesenjoon, Anar polo, or Nardoon(Persian local foods) are typically offered on this night.
A modern Persian family does not consider a Yalda gathering to be complete without all the vibrant cuisine on the Yalda table (or Korsi). Persians are quite particular about how the Yalda table is decorated.
Divan-e Hafez (Hafez Khaani)
Purchase a Hafez book since it is one of the cornerstones of an authentic Yalda in Iran. There is usually at least one “Divan-e Hafez” in every Iranian household. Make a “Fal” out of this book, that’s what you ought to do.
Fal is consulting the book and using Hafez’s odes as a form of divination. What you need to do is ask Hafez for advice and support by making a request or asking a query regarding your present love or life issue in your heart. The poem that emerges when you open the Divan (Hafez’s poetry book) at random would be his response to your query.
Obviously, you need a book with the translations in it or someone Iranian standing by who can translate it for you. The oldest family member, often a grandfather, opens the book and reads the poem to each member of the family.
Because some people find Hafez’s responses to be quite accurate and relatable, it is really a fun experience. So, if you plan to celebrate Yalda with Iranians, acquire your copy of Hafez as soon as you can!
Origins: Where Does Yalda Come from?
Yalda, also referred to as Chelleh, originates in the pre-Zoroastrian tradition of worship of Mithra, the God of the Sun, which is one of the best celebrations lasting until sunrise after the longest night of the year. The longest and darkest night of the year was thought by the ancient Persians to be when evil powers were most powerful.
Yalda Night or Shabe Chelleh?
Iranians divide the year into seasons, each of which has a name that translates to “forty days” and is called a distinct Chelleh. The first Chelleh occurs in the summer, while the others, which are known as the great and the tiny Chelleh, occur in the winter.
The small Chelleh, which begins from the tenth to the thirty-first day of Bahman (the second month of winter in the Persian calendar), contains twenty nights and days that are added to create the second forty-day period, the small Chelleh. The big Chelleh begins on the first day of Dey, the first month of winter in the Persian calendar, and lasts for forty days.
The traditional Iranian festival of the winter solstice known as Shabe Chelleh and Shabe Yalda is still observed by Iranians and other nations such as Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Iraqi Kurdistan, Afghanistan, and Turkey.
Why Do They Celebrate This Night?
Yalda Night, also known as Shabe Chelleh, derives from Zoroastrianism and in Syriac means “birth.” Yalda marks the beginning of the gradual lengthening of the day, hence it is a celebration of the birth of the sun as a sign of light triumphing over evil and good over both. In Persian poetry, Shabe Yalda has come to stand in for concepts like impatience, loneliness, and being separated from a loved one. In the same manner that virtue wins over evil, longing and loneliness are also over.
According to legend, Yalda Night traditions were created in the distant past to guard against evil during the longest night.
How is Yalda Held?
The doorbell at a Tehran residence rings, and it appears that everyone in the family is making their way to the residence of the family patriarch during one of the top celebrations. At their elders’ home, the family and guests come to celebrate Shabe Yalda.
At home, special arrangements are also made; a sort of heater is put up on the floor, a large table with short legs is positioned above it, and a sizable crimson blanket covers the entire scene. The name of it is Korsi. In the past, in the absence of modern-day equipment, Korsi was the solution for cold winter nights. Not all houses have Korsi nowadays, but it is still a tradition to set up one on Shabe Yalda to gather around and enjoy the warmth.
The hosts are arranging various plates of fruits and nuts on top of the Korsi. The youngster is instructed to partake in one of the practices of this night, which includes eating delicious almonds as well as fruits like watermelon and pomegranates. When Shabe Chelleh is approaching, one might find these fruits and nuts put out in the streets and bazaars, being sold and offered to passersby.
The doorbell stops ringing when all of the guests have arrived and the night drags on. They are consuming watermelon or pomegranates while seated around the Korsi. They consume nuts. They talk and laugh till the sun comes up, remembering happy times and relishing the chance to be back home together and in one other’s presence.
They start talking about dinner as they eat. Every city in Iran has something distinctive to offer to the historic Yalda night celebration, and food is undoubtedly one of them. Iran is a large country. Iranian chicken stew with walnuts and pomegranates called Khoreshe Fesenjoon is the dish that is served most frequently. Sabzi Polo Maahi, a rice dish with chopped herbs and whitefish or smoked fish, is the traditional Shabe Yalda meal in the Gilan district of northern Iran.
Havij Polo, a type of carrot rice typically served with chicken and saffron that has been roasted in Persia, is the night’s special dish in Shiraz. Kalam Polo, a dish made with rice and cabbage that is also very well-known in Shiraz, is another popular option. Every city in Iran celebrates this night by serving the local cuisine; however, what is interesting is that in the majority of the cities, pomegranates or walnuts are the main ingredients for Shabe Chelleh cuisine. Like in Qazvin where people eat Nardoon (pomegranate stew) or Anar Polo (pomegranate rice)
Why is Yalda red? (The Special Appearance of Shabe Yalda)
The dominant color of the night is red. Most of the visitors on this special night also wear red, so pomegranates and watermelons are not the only red-colored things. Red is often associated with the dawn’s crimson tones and the brightness of life. A holiday called Shabe Chelleh honors the victory of light over darkness. On this night, many candles and light decorations are typically used in homes and gardens to emphasize the significance of light. The festival is sometimes celebrated with fireworks.
Yalda Night’s Registration on UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage
According to the news by ECO Cultural Iran and Indian narrative, ‘Yalda/Chella’ has been added as the new inscription on UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage by the suggestion of Iran and Afghanistan. Hopefully, this news adds another chapter to the age-old friendship between two ancient neighboring civilizations. The UNESCO fact sheet proudly characterizes this ancient event as a mirror of cultural identity, hospitality, peaceful coexistence friendship, and cultural diversity, highlighting its unique characteristics that have greatly and positively influenced the world’s culture.
How is Yalda Celebrated in Iran?
Since ancient times, Iranians and certain other peoples in the Middle East and Central Asia have celebrated Shabe Yalda. People host elaborate gatherings at special tables and sit around late-night conversations while people read poetry and crack & share jokes with their friends, families, and loved ones.
What is Yalda Night in Islam?
The religious importance of the old Persian festivals was lost with the advent of Islam. Despite the introduction of Islam and Muslim ceremonies, Shab-e Yalda is still frequently celebrated in Iran today. “Shab e Cheleh” is now just a get-together for pleasure and festivities for family and friends.
What Fruits Are Served on Yalda Night?
Pomegranates and watermelon are essentials for the Yalda table because their red hues signify dawn. Persimmon, Beetroot, and Ajil are additional staple foods on Yalda.
What is Yalda in English?
The longest night of the year, sometimes referred to as the winter solstice, is referred to as Yalda, which means “birth.”
How Old is Yalda Night?
One of the sacred nights in ancient Iran was known as “Yalda Night,” and starting in 502 BC, under Darius I, it was a part of the Persian official calendar. Only the advent of this tradition is explained. The question remained unanswered.
What Can I Bring to Yalda Night?
Various fruits and sweet treats that have been specially prepared or stored for this evening are presented. The event is often accompanied by foods like almonds, melons, pomegranates, and dried fruit. All of these things and more are frequently put on a Korsi, which is where people sit.