The longest night: Yalda Night (Shab e-Yalda)
Did you know Iran has its own special wintertime festival going back thousands of years called Yalda? Yes, that’s right there is one festival which occurs on the winter solstice each year where families and friends come together to celebrate the official beginning of winter.
Known in Persian as Shab e-Yalda (Yalda Night) or Shab e-Chelleh (40th Night), the night is usually on December 20 or 21 depending on the calendar.
The origins of Shab e-Yalda date back centuries all the way back to the pre-Islamic times in Iran, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan according to most sources.
How do Iranians celebrate Yalda?
For more than 1,000 years, Iranian peoples across Central Asia and the Near East have celebrated this night with very specific rituals, including attempting to stay awake through the night and reading poetry, these days usually Hafez and enjoy each other’s company. But don’t forget about the food, I hear the locals saying. Yes, that’s right, expect to be stuffed with food and drink (non-alcoholic of course) to your heart’s content.
There are some that believe that if you eat summer fruit on Yalda Night you are unlikely to fall sick throughout the rest of the cold season, but that is probably an old wives’ tale.
There is one fruit which takes precedence over all others and that is humble pomegranate which is native to the country. And also don’t forget buying a juicy watermelon, which is a must-have part of the night’s celebration!