Take that Mithra
On the “longest and darkest night of the year,” Iranians around the world celebrate Shab-e Yalda (شب یلدا.), or Yaldā Night. We know this time as the winter solstice. Shab-e Yalda is an ancient Persian festival that commemorates the triumph of Mithra, the Sun God, over darkness.
Pomegranates and watermelon are symbolic of this time. There is a Farsi saying that goes something like: “I wish you a long and happy life like Shab-e Yalda, wet as watermelon and fruitful as pomegranates.” Both fruits are said to protect you from the summer heat of the next year.
Gather ‘round the korsi
An ornate display is created, which is put on top of a korsi, a low, heated sitting table for families to gather around. This table is covered in a decorative cloth and topped with fruits (like the aforementioned pomegranates and watermelon), nuts, and a book of poems called Hafez.
More than just poems
For this celebration, it’s traditional to read poems from Hafez. Family members then take turns asking the Hafez a question, and flipping to a random page to “divine,” get an answer. This is more of a reflection tool than fortune telling, as it promotes critical thinking about their lives and the text.
Wish someone a “Happy Yalda!” by saying “Shab-e Yalda Mobarak!”