Yalda - Iran

The last night of autumn, Yalda night or Chelleh night, which is the darkest and longest night of the year, has been celebrated by Iranians for several thousand years. Yalda is among the Iranian festivals that people celebrate it in their own way for the historical and cultural reasons that have been inherited from thousands of years ago. Stay with us to rad more about this Iranian celebration more.

The culture of celebrating Yalda

Yalda is the longest night of the year, the last day of autumn called winter solstice. After this night the nights will become shored and shorter. So, ancient Iranians consider this night to be the victory of the sun over the darkness. Yalda Night is a symbol of blessing, health, abundance, and happiness. The rituals have not changed in the past and for many years. Iranians enjoy the fruits and other snacks, keep themselves warm until sunrise and wait for dawn to watch the end of darkness.

On this night, relatives often go to their grandparents’ house and bring watermelon or pomegranate, which they pick from a tree or hide under the ground. In rural areas, grandparents tell stories under Korsi, which was a special kind of heater covered with a large blanket in ancient Iranian homes, and read Hafez. Family members eat special nuts, watermelon, pomegranate and sweets, and various fruits together. The main fruit of Yalda night is pomegranate because the elders consider it a blessing, and also, its red color is a symbol of happiness. Pomegranate has a special place among the major religions of the world. Also, it is considered sacred in the Zoroastrian. Watermelon, like pomegranate, is one of the most special fruits of Yalda night. You should know that watermelon is a summer fruit. Therefore, in addition to its red color, it is reminiscent of the heat of summer and the sun. Other fruits such as oranges, apples, persimmons, pears, or even pumpkins are also consumed. Also, special nuts and snacks such as pistachios, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, and dried berries and figs are important options on Yalda night.

Yalda celebration

A typical design of Yalda celebration in Iranian houses.

How is Yalda celebrated in different cities?

Yalda night is celebrated uniquely in every city in Iran; from Tabriz and Urmia to Bushehr, Khorasan, Isfahan and Shiraz, and other cities. In the north and Azerbaijan, it is customary to send gifts called khancheh, which are decorated especially, to the new bride’s home. The people of Azerbaijan decorate watermelons in a large tray and put red shawls around them, but in the north, they decorate a big fish and send it to the bride’s house. In Ardabil, families gather together and spend the night together until sunrise. Watermelon, pomegranate, orange, fish pilaf are common fruits and foods. This night in Isfahan is almost like other parts of Iran. But they believe that the celebration is divided into two parts, one is the great Cheleh, and the other is the small Cheleh. The people of Shiraz decorate a table like the Nowruz. Reading Hafez’s poems is one of the inseparable traditions for them. Shahnameh reading is also another tradition that has been common among Iranians for a long time. On this special night, you will realize the beauty of literature, art, and happiness together.

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