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Yalda night or Shabe Yalda شب یلدا is an Iranian festival celebrated on the “longest and darkest night of the year.” It usually falls on the 20 or 21 of December. Shabe Yalda is also called Shabe Chelleh or the 40th night of the Winter Solstice.
Persian people usually get together with family and spend the night together. They eat different kinds of fruits like pomegranate, watermelon, grapes, oranges, persimmons, and mixed nuts called “Ajil” آجیل and baked goods. They read poetry by the great poet Hafiz “Divane Hafiz” دیوان حافظ , sing songs, and talk about memories and tales from the good old days.. The celebration goes almost until after midnight and people stay up late because they don’t want to miss this precious time of being together.
Shabe Yalda is observed in other countries like Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Kurdistan, Tajikistan, and Turkey, too. The table is decorated in red, orange, and maroon to represent dawn and glow of life. Traditionally people get around a “Korsi” کرسی a small low-level table with a big mattress or covering around it, to keep them warm from the cold outside and more importantly keeping the family close together.
Of course, around these days, fruits like
watermelon and pomegranate are very expensive. But almost everyone tries to have these two fruits on their table for Shable Yalda. The ladies of the house open the pomegranate and put all the red shining seeds in a big bright bowl ready to be served, so that their guests don’t go through the hardship. Watermelon may also be carved and decorated like a pumpkin on Halloween. It is all about eating and having fun on this night. So, all the delicacies need to be set up before guests arrive.
Usually people get together at their grandparent’s house or an elder, respected member of the family. Divane Hafez is read by those who can read Hafiz poetry well and interpret its deep meaning. While the poetry is read, everyone else sits quietly while the reader interprets and associates the poem’s meaning with the guests’ life experiences. Many others just read the rhythmic poetry and enjoy its deep and vast denotation.
So remember if you see Persian people around you on Dec 20-21, tell them “Shabe Yalda Mobarak!” or شب یلدا مبارک meaning Happy Yalda!
There is also a video if you want to learn more, hope you enjoy your Shabe Yalda.