Yalda, the warmest celebration in the coldest night

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Yalda, the longest night of the year before the arrival of winter, is here. Lots of Iranians are preparing themselves to celebrate this event. This is the time when family members get together, celebrating and eating different kinds of foods. The colder the Yalda is, the happier time people spend.The word Yalda, which means birth, is a Syriac word imported into the Persian language.
Yalda symbolizes lots of things just as it represents the longest night in a year and reminds us of happiness, pomegranate, watermelon, poem, and Korsi, a type of low table found in Iran, with a heater underneath it, and blankets thrown over it.

Some sources say Yalda is taken from Islamic times. In pre-Islamic Zoroastrian tradition, the longest and darkest night of the year was a particularly inauspicious day. The rituals practiced during the night – now known as ‘Shab-e Chelleh’ – were originally customs intended to protect people from the evil of the prolonged darkness.

Through all these years, Iranians have kept the tradition of gathering at elders’ homes, particularly their parents, in order to celebrate a happy night. They start the night by consuming fruits and nuts. Among fruits, pomegranate and watermelon play a key role in Yalda celebrations. Fruit sellers are also happy as well as other Iranians.

Reading the poems of Persian poet Hafez is another customary tradition which Iranians are interested in. They open the collection of Hafez verses and make a wish. It is believed that Hafez has had the ability to see into the future so Iranian families enthusiastically go to Hafez to see what the future has in store for them; happiness or unhappiness?

Yalda is not just for Iranians. A number of other nations including Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan have been celebrating the longest night of the year for centuries.

As far as Iranian culture is concerned, maintaining cultural traditions is important. By following our ancestors’ traditions and customs, as a matter of fact, we protect our identity. While many nations in the world have forgotten their culture and traditions they have inherited from their ancestors, it is a merit for Iranians that still carry on such ancient traditions.

Yalda Night was officially added to Iran’s List of National Treasures during a special ceremony in 2008.

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