Yalda winter solstice – An ancient Iranian celebration

Yalda winter solstice – An ancient Iranian celebration
ID : N-3760 Date : 2018/12/21 - 10:00

(Persia Digest) – Yalda is one of Iran’s oldest celebrations that takes place on the longest night of the year – the last night of autumn. The celebration is rooted in Mithraism.

Iranian social activist, Dr Shahin Sepanta, told Persia Digest (PD) in an interview: “Yalda is rooted in Mithraism and was celebrated by its followers. The special spread is also a “Meizad” tradition of food offering around which the followers of Mithra gathered all night long to celebrate the rise of “Mehr”. The spread was adorned with beverages, holy bread, pomegranate, and other blessings bestowed by Ahura Mazda. As such, from a social viewpoint, all celebrations like Yalda augment empathy and synergy among people.”

Sepanta has already proposed to the Iranian government that Yalda should be registered on the national calendar and as a World Heritage. Speaking about this old tradition and its social customs that have lasted to date, he says: “Iranian celebrations are usually national and cultural ones. The secret of their long standing is that they are intertwined with nature. Yalda night, or the winter solstice, is followed by the days getting longer as from 22 December and the nights getting shorter. In the past, people used to spend this longest night of the year by staying up until dawn to witness the first rays of the sun they called “Mehr” or sun. The time between the moment the sun’s rays were seen, or the birth of the sun on 22 December, until the “Sadeh” celebrations lasted forty days and was called “Chelleh”.

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He continued: “In fact, the sun’s rays warm up on 30 February. On this day, another celebration is held for the warmth, fire, and light called “Sadeh”.

He added: “Therefore, this celebration is important because it is intertwined with nature and the people’s daily lives which was spent in nature. Throughout the centuries, this changed into a tradition enjoyed and celebrated by them. Because, this was a long night in the middle of winter when they could gather around with their families and celebrate regardless of their religions. After Nowruz, Yalda is Iran’s second largest celebration of nature and its rebirth.”

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Sepanta finished off by pointing to the advice given by elders on Yalda night, saying: “Perhaps the difference between Yalda and other celebrations is that all the family members come together on this night. They prepare events suitable for the gathering under the “Korsi”, such as reading the “Shahnameh Book of Kings”, telling stories, and listening to the advice of family elders. This is a good opportunity to transfer ethical, cultural and educational concepts from one generation to the next.”

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