Shab-e-Yalda, (Yalda night, in Persian) a traditional Iranian celebration of the longest
night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, has remained popular since ancient
times. This traditional Persian winter Solstice celebration is commemorated on or
around December 20 or 21 each year. According to Iranian mythology, from Yalda night forward, light triumphs over darkness
as days grow longer. This celebration, based on the Iranian calendar, comes in the
Persian month of Day, the pre-Zoroastrian creator god (Deity). Later he became known
as the god of creation and light. It should be noted that the English word “day,” is
derived from this word and its symbolism of 'Good'.
Yalda has a root in Zoroastrian belief, to be exact, Mithraism religion. The Mithraists
believed that Mithra, the Persian god of light and truth, was born to a virgin mother in
the morning of the longest night of the year. In other words, Mithra was born on Yalda. It was said that Mithra was born out of the light that came from within the Alborz
Mountains, symbolizing the Sun god overcoming the powers of darkness. Having this
belief, ancient Iranians gathered in caves throughout the night to witness this miracle
together at dawn. They were known as 'Yar-e Ghar' (Cave Mates). Therefore the
ceremony is traced to the primal concept of light and good against darkness and evil in
the ancient Iranian religion.
Shab-e Yalda, the longest and darkest night of the year, symbolizes many things in
Persian poetry, such as the separation between loved ones, loneliness and waiting.
Many believe waiting would be over after this night as the light would shine and
goodness would prevail. Previously, Iranians, like other people around the world, were more loyal to their
traditions and ancient customs. In the evening of Yalda, they lighted bonfires outside,
and invited each other to their houses, where they gathered around the Korsee, a
traditional warmer table covered with a thick cloth.
Nowadays, Yalda has become a social occasion when friends and family gather to
eat, drink and read poetry (especially Hafiz) until after midnight. Fruits, particularly
pomegranates and watermelons, and nuts are served in this night. The fruits signify
the hope for having a fruitful spring and summer. The red-colored fruits symbolize the
crimson hues of dawn and glow of life, invoking the glory of Mithra. Pomegranates with
angelica powder are believed to protect individuals against the Devil.
According to ancient tradition, the oldest member of some families thanks God for the
previous year's bumper crops on this night, asking him for prosperity in the next year.
Then with a knife, he cuts the melon/watermelon and gives everyone a share. The
cutting symbolizes the removal of sickness and pain from the family. The 13th century Persian poet, Saadi, wrote in his Bustan (collection of poems), "The
true morning will not come, until the Yalda Night is gone."
When the nature starts to blossom and breeze of spring starts to blow, Iranian people celebrate the start of their New Year. The celebration is called Nowruz which literally means 'new day'. Iranians (Persians) clean everywhere and everything specially their hearts from sorrow and anger and try to rebuild relations and make them stronger.
ISPorto (Iranian Students in Porto) celebrated Nowruz in University of Porto on March 20th in 2010 and 2011. We will try to hold it every year. Our main goal is to share the happiness of coming New Year with you and also give you some brief information about our history, culture and traditions especially Nowruz and simply to have fun!)