As old as history, Yalda Night (Shab- e Yalda), also called Chelleh Night (Shab- e Chelleh) is one of the most vital and wonderful Iranian traditions celebrated on the last night of autumn, which is on Azar 30th according to the Persian calendar or on December 20th – 21st. Actually Yalda Night is on the winter solstice on the Northern Hemisphere, which is the reason why this mysterious night has been known as the longest and darkest night of the year since ancient days.
But why did Iranians celebrate the Yalda Night?
In Zoroastrian traditions, people believed that on the longest and darkest night of the year, the Ahriman and its evil powers have more control than any other time and the Ahuramazda (highest Zoroastrian deity) spends its weakest time. According to this mythic belief, people preferred to stay awake, gather, light candles and lamps and spend the night in groups. They celebrated the next day to cherish the finishing of dark nights and greet the brighter days.
Yalda Night, today
Although thousands of years have passed along those legendary beliefs, Iranians have still kept this amazing tradition alive and celebrate Yalda every year on autumn’s last night, whether it is a small family gathering or it is a big fancy party. Pomegranate and watermelon are the inseparable friends of the Yalda night, because Iranians believe that if they eat some watermelon, which is a summer fruit, on the first winter night, they will be protected from winter illnesses and the shiny pomegranate seeds are a symbol of life. Reading a Hafez poem is one of the amazing traditions of the Yalda Night. The oldest family member chooses a poem randomly and each person corresponds the poem with their secret wish and find out if it is going to come true or not.
Yalda Night is celebrated not only in Iran, but also in other countries like Afghanistan, Tajikistan Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Armenia. This tradition was registered on the list of the national treasures of Iran on 2008.
Happy Yalda Night.