Tasnim – Yalda is one of the most celebrated traditional events in Iran which marks the longest night of the year.
Every year, on Dec. 21, Iranians celebrate the arrival of winter, the renewal of the sun and the victory of light over darkness on Yalda Night.
Yalda is only about a minute longer that the other nights of autumn. But it is celebrated symbolically as the longest night of the year providing people with the opportunity to stay up late and spend more time with friends and family.
Yalda’s main purpose is to place value on family and friendship.
Although, modernization and technology have led to disappearance of some of ancient rituals — such as soirees that were very common until 20 years ago — Yalda Night is still widely celebrated by many families.
While Yalda is observed in its own way by different ethnic groups in Iran, some activities are most common including:
Book reading and storytelling
Grandparents and elderly relatives are highly honored in Iran, as age is associated with wisdom in Iranian culture. Elder family members usually act as primary hosts to Yalda celebrations. Therefore, grandchildren and younger generations go to their houses to celebrate the night.
Grandparents narrate stories both orally and from books such as ‘Golestan’ of Sa’di, ‘Shahnameh’ of Ferdowsi and ‘Divan’ of Hafez.
Also, some benevolent Iranians visit old peoples’ home on Yalda Night and celebrate the night with the elderly who are lonely. It is a highly appreciable activity.
Singing in local dialects is part of Yalda Night. Happy songs that promise an optimistic future and a happy end are sung. Songs must not depress people, on the contrary, they must provide them with hope.
The history of playing games dates back to ancient times, as Iranians have always attached a great importance on joyfulness. Yalda Night provides people the best opportunity to play and boost their relationship.
Games are not played merely for entertainment but they are means of learning new things.
People in different parts of Iran play different games.
Dried fruits, nuts, watermelon, and certain cuisines including ‘ash’ (thick winter soup) are served on Yalda Night. However, it does not mean that all of such things must be there to celebrate a happy Yalda Night.