The Localist



At the end of last year, miles away from Iran and surrounded by Christmas shoppers and images of Santa Claus on the streets of Madrid, I was looking everywhere for watermelons and pomegranates, two fruits traditionally eaten on the Iranian Persian festival called Yalda.

People in many parts of the world celebrate Christmas. However, Christmas is just another working day in Iran. Neither Christmas trees nor carols make me nostalgic for my hometown, but these long lasting cruelly cold winter nights certainly do.  A country where 90 percent of its population is Muslim, logically, would not celebrate Christmas. However, a few days before, normally either the 20 or 21 of December, is a special day for us. On the night of the winter solstice, the longest night of the year (in the northern hemisphere), Iranians celebrate Yalda, the birth of Mithra, God of sun or Persian angel of light and truth.

The word Yalda in Syriac means birth. Maybe that’s why it is attributed to birth of Jesus. The history of Yalda dates back to Pre-Zoroastrian times, when Mithra, or Mehr, was worshiped. Due to the rise of Islam, Yalda lost its religious meaning, however Yalda eve is still a great night of joy. Yalda is not even an official holiday, yet it is still a living festival among Iranians.  It’s a night when family and friends get together (formerly around the fire place) to eat a fine dinner, nuts and a wide verity of fresh and dried fruit. Pomegranates and watermelons are eaten on this night as their redness symbolises the dawn, and their seeds make them a symbol of fertility and blessing.

Apart from eating, reading poetry and storytelling are also important parts of the celebration. Divination by Hafiz, the Iranian poet is an inevitable part of Yalda. We read poetry and tell anecdotes and tales, and sometimes jokes, to pass this long winter’s night.


Image. Photo by Augustus Binu.

Comments are closed.

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.




Shafagh Helalat

Open the windows, 
For the kind breeze is celebrating the birthday of the beautiful flowers, 
And spring,
 On each and every branch,
 Close ...

Take me to....Australia….Canada….Chile....Indonesia....Iran....Mexico….Myanmar….Nepal….Pakistan....Sri LankaThailand.USA

The Localist is an online magazine for people interested in travel, culture and storytelling. 

contact us.  rss feed.  facebook.  twitter.  pinterest.  google+.

The Localist participates in Book Depository's affiliate programme. Whenever you click on a link on The Localist to buy a book from Book Depository (including here), The Localist will earn a small commission on the sale. You will be contributing in a meaningful way towards sustaining and improving this website.