When the sun sets on the final day of fall until the sunrise of the next day (the first day of winter) there will be a celebration in each and every Iranian household. Shab Cheleh or Shab Yalda is one of the most important and beloved Iranian ceremonies and celebrations.
What does Yalda mean?
The word Yalda in the Syriac language means birth. In ancient times, this celebration was also called Milad Akbar, which meant the birth of Akbar, the birth of the sun. There are other narrations about Yalda night; In ancient Persia, Yalda night was known as the night of the birth of the sun and justice. It is said that according to the ancient Iranians, on this night Mitra or Mehr returns to the world and prolongs the days and as a result the sun regains dominion over the earth.
Why is it important?
The ancient Iranians, like many nations, viewed light as a symbol of sacred things, believing that on the longest night of the year, demonic darkness would end, and lighting torches and lamps of fire on the highest night of autumn to counter the evil of darkness. They celebrated and rejoiced to welcome the sunrise.
What to eat during Yalda?
To celebrate the birth of Mehr, a tablecloth is spread, which is called Yalda or Cheleh tablecloth and is decorated with a variety of nuts, pomegranate seeds or watermelon. Pomegranate and watermelon are among the most important necessities of Yalda night. Also, dried fruits such as peach, apricot and Yalda night nuts are very popular in Iran.
For the ancestors of the Iranians who were attached to the ritual of Mehr, the color red (symbol of sunlight) was cherished. The red color of pomegranate and watermelon, and the choice of red apples and elm on the Yalda dinner table may be a reference to this.
What do people do for Yalda?
By tradition Iranians gather in the homes of the family elders. It is customary that on this great night, the eldest recite the “Divan of Hafez”.
Shahnameh (the book of kings) reading is another ritual that has been common among Iranias for a long time and is an integral part of Yalda night. In schools, on the occasion of Yalda night, various ceremonies are held, of which Shahnameh reading, handicraft making, writing and anthem performance are the involved.