Yalda Night, also called Shab-e Yalda, or by its original name – Shab-e Chelleh, is one of the oldest holidays in Iran and in the world as a whole. Celebrated on December 21 every year, the Yalda Night marks the winter solstice in Central Asia – the day of the year when the night is longest and the day is shortest.
It’s also the night that separates the Iranian autumn and winter, or the night that separates the first 40-day part of winter from the second 40-day part, depending on how you want to look at it.
Like most other people around the world, the ancient Iranians celebrated most seasonal changes and ascribed a large number of religious and symbolic meaning to them. In the case of the Yalda Night, the people of Iran believed this is the night of the Sun’s rebirth.
The reasoning was very simple – each day after the Yalda Night gets longer and longer at the expense of the nights which keep getting shorter.
Eating fruits on the Yalda Night, particularly fresh fruits, is important as this holiday is meant to be the triumph of the Sun over the Darkness. Even though it is the dead of winter, the Iranian people preferred to see it as a positive – as the end of the Darkness’ advance on the Light. So, having fresh fruits on the table was crucial to emphasize “Life’s victory”.
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