Yalda Night or Night of Chelle is one of the oldest Iranian celebrations. This celebration is celebrated as the tallest night of the year followed by having the longer days in the northern hemisphere, which coincided with the winter revolution./span>
Yalda is said to be between the sunset from 30th of Azar (the last day of Autumn) to the dawn on the first of Dey (first day of winter). Iranian families at Yalda’s Night usually serve delicious supper, as well as a variety of fruits and, most commonly, watermelon and pomegranate. After serving snacks, the storytelling of family elders for other members of the family and fortune telling by the odes of Hafez is also commonplace.
The etymology of Yalda
Yalda’s derived with Syriac word ܝܠܕܐ which means “Birth” and the night of Chelleh which is synonymous with the Yalda’s night, is that the forty first days of winter were called “the great Chelleh” and the next twenty days were called “little Chelleh”. Aboureyhan Biruni called this celebration “the great Birth” and referred to it as “the Birth of Sun”
The “Yalda Night”, which was celebrated as one of the holy nights in Ancient Iran, officially appeared in the ancient Iranian calendar from 502 BC during Darius I. Chelleh and celebrations held this night, are an ancient tradition. The people of the past, that agriculture was the foundation of their lives, and during the year with passing the seasons was familiar with natural contradictions, and by their experience and the passage of time, they were able to do their work with circling the sun and change of the seasons and the long and Shortness of the days and nights and direction and movement of stars.
They noticed that in some seasons days were long, so that in those days, they could use more from the sunlight. It was believed that the light and brightness, and the glow of the sun are a symbol of good and it is fighting with darkness of the night. The ancient people, including the Aryan tribes, from India, Persia, and Europe, found that the shortest days, the last day of autumn and the first night of the winter, were gradually getting looser immediately afterwards and got shorter at night, so it was called night of The Birth of the Sun (Mehr) and it is called the beginning of the year. Christian Christmas is also rooted in the same belief.
Similarity between Yalda with other tribes
The celebration of the Winter Revolution was also popular among other ancient tribes. In ancient Rome, and simultaneously with the promotion of Christianity, the worship of the “Soul invictus” (the invincible sun) god of the Pagan of Rome was very common and the Romans celebrated it during the Winter Revolution. “Sole Invictus” also played a significant role in the Romanism of Mithraism, and even Mitras (the Greek equivalent of the ancient Iranian god Mitra) had the title of invincible sun.
To celebrate the birthday of Mehr, there was some tablecloths that is called Yalda or Chelleh tablecloths and they were decorated with various kinds of nuts, pomegranates or watermelon. Pomegranates and watermelon are among the most important necessities of the Yalda’s Night. Nuts of Yalda’s Night are also popular and has many fans in Iran.
For the Iranian ancestors who were affiliated with the rituals of Mehr, the color red (the symbol of sunlight) was valued. The red color of pomegranate and watermelon, and the selection of red apples and Senjed on the Yalda tablecloth may also refer to this issue.
Reading Shahnameh is another tradition that has long been commonplace among Iranians and is an integral part of Yalda’s night. In schools, on the occasion of Yalda’s night, various ceremonies are held, in which reading Shahnameh, making handicrafts, writing essays and singing performances are among the main components of these programs.
Hafez fortune telling
It is customary that on this great night, the family will divine by the Hafez Divan and the poets would read their poems to others. Altogether, these are the traditions that remain on the ancient culture of Mehr among the people, and every year gets new with Yalda’s night.
Yalda is the messenger of Iranian Peace and Friendship
Yalda is the longest night to wait for the birth of the sun, the end of darkness and the promise of brightness of tomorrow.
Ancient Persians had many celebrations, during which there were occasional celebrations, including Yalda.
Yalda is a celebration of several thousand years old and is considered as special Ariyans tradition.
In general, Iranians celebrated all the months of the year, and none of their months has been empty of celebration.
Iranians have always been in peace and friendship, and holding these celebrations is an excuse for the proximity of the community people and their unity.
In the ancient era, in the Avestan culture, the year began from the cold season, Sareda-saredha itself means cold. This means the victory of Ormozd on darkness and brightness in the dark. In the works of al-Baqiyah, Abu Rihān Beironi, p. 250 the first day of the month of Dey also called Khoor, and It is also mentioned in the Massoudi law version of the British Museum in London has been registered “Khareh Rooz” and in some sources the first day of Dey is called “Khorram Rooz”.
The Khorram Rooz in ancient Persia was the day of human equality. Everyone, including the king, was wearing simple dresses to look the same with others, and nobody had the right to order another, and works was done volunteering. On this day fighting, bleeding, even killing sheep and chickens was forbidden, and it has much seen that this temporary interruption of the war turned to a long-lasting peace.
The word Yalda is from Syriac and means birth, and knowing this naming as which is at the end of this long night, which is devilish, the sun or the Mehr is born, and eliminates the darkness. And they have known its tomorrow morning the birth of the sun, and they saw the darkness as the symbol of evil, and this night was considered as night of damned, and they light the fire in order to overthrow it, and they gathered together and spread a special tablecloth; this tablecloth had a religious aspect, and it was holy.
According to the ritual of the Mehr, committing any evil on the day of the “Kharreh” or “Khorram” that is the birth of the sun was considered as bad and a great sin, and on this day they stopped working so that they would not commit evil deeds, as well as Iranians looked to the cypress tree as a symbol of Power against the darkness and cold.
Therefore, the celebrations of other countries are also influenced by Yalda’s celebration and Mithraism, and the Ancient Romans celebrated the birth of the Mithra (the birth of the Sun), and after Christianity in Europe, this religion remains, and the Roman Catholic Church announced the 25th of December as the birthday of Christ.
Yalda’s Night Celebration:
The ancient Iranians gathered together and spent the night eating, drinking, dancing and talking. The tablecloth of Yalda’s night called Mizad was decorated with sweets like nuts and dried and fresh fruits such as pomegranates and watermelons, and pomegranates and watermelons were used as symbol of light and brightness, and by eating it they go to welcome the light and the sun and made themselves prepared for a bright morning.
Today, this tradition continues, and people celebrate this night, which is the Chelle’s night, and they are in fact welcomed by the winter, and the winter that promises a bright tomorrow.
The people in this celebration go to family members and their relatives, and the elderly tell the story, and many will divine by the odes of Hafez in this night, and they will welcome the winter by eating nuts, watermelons, pomegranates, sweets and other symbolic fruits.
In Iranians view, winter is not the season of the cold and dryness of nature, but the season of water and life and the rebirth of the sun. Yalda is not just a celebration but a message of peace and friendship, a message of national unity, Yalda tells us to be together with sympathy and friendship and to shake the turmoil and darkness from the hearts and thank the God for his gifts and keep and send the message that the Iranians always live in peace and friendship to the rest of the world.