As an ancient civilization with a history of hundreds of thousands years, Iran enjoys from a variety of cultural rituals and traditions. Shab-e-Yalda, Shab-e-Chelleh or Yalda Night is one of the most beautiful and important ceremonies observed by Iranian nation.
Yalda, a Syriac word, means birth and the tradition celebrates the birth of Mithra, the goddess of light based on Zoroastrian beliefs. Iranians celebrate the longest and darkest night of the year or winter solstice (on 20 to 21 December according to the Georgian calendar) when the forces of evil are assumed to be at the peak of their strength. The next day, which is the first day of winter, belongs to Ahura Mazda, the lord of wisdom. Since days become longer and nights shorter, this day marks the victory of the sun over darkness.
Family member gather in residence of the eldest, especially in grandparents’ houses and stay awake till midnight. Eating is a very important part of Yalda Night, which is marked by pomegranates, watermelons and dried nuts. Iranians believe beginning winter by eating summer fruits would protect them from illness during the cold season. Therefore, eating watermelons is one of the most important traditions of the night. Pomegranates, on the other hand, symbolize the cycle of life: the birth and revival of generations.
Narrating old stories and particularly reading poems of Hafez, prominent Persian poet, are also among traditions of Yalda. People make a wish, open a book of Hafez and the first poem they see is the interpretation of the wish and whether and how it will come true.
The tradition is also celebrated in Some Central Asian and Caucasian countries like Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Armenia.