One of the loveliest festivals in Iran, is the Yalda Night or Shab-e-Yalda. It happens on the night of the 21st of December until the dawn of the 22nd. It marks the night of the 30th of Azar on the Hijri Calendar until the dawn of the 1st of Dey. Exactly when fall ends and winter starts. If you look at the sunset on the 30th and the dawn of the sun on the 1st of Dey, it marks the longest night of the year. You might say, it’s only a few minutes more or less, but it has become a beautiful tradition where families gather especially at the eldest person of the family’s house, spending quality time with each other.
Fruits and Foods:
One of the most important parts of the tradition, involves the special fruits which have become symbols of this night. The two most important on the list are pomegranates and watermelons.
Although the season of watermelon has well passed in the fall, it’s a custom to have it at Yalda Night. It’s actually there to show the end of summer and pomegranates are a symbol of life and health.
Other than eating delicious food and fruits, it’s custom to read poems by Hafez and tell one’s fortune by randomly opening Hafez’s main book and reading the poem that comes up. This is called Fal-e-Hafez or Tafa’ol Zadan.
Yalda Night is one of the many traditions which existed in Iran around 2500 years ago. Fortunately, this tradition hasn’t been forgotten and it has been respected by all generations throughout time. This is probably because of the nature of it which involves the families gathering around each other, which is an important part of the Iranian culture.
In the recent years, there have been public places which hold special events on that night, with music and food. It’s a night of joy for the Iranians.
If you’d like to enjoy this festival, be sure to be in Iran at that specific time, since it’s a one-night event (like Halloween or Thanksgiving) and try to hook up with one of the special tours provided. Some include going to the desert, others are in the main cities.