Yalda night is the longest night of year, though it may be less than one minute longer, that is annually celebrated as one of the social gatherings and is an excuse for the families to come together during this night.
Yalda and Shab-e Cheleh in Persian is celebrated on the evening before the first day of the winter (December 21-22) in the Iranian calendar, which falls in the winter and forty days before the next major Persian festival “Jashn-e Sadeh (fire festival)”.
Today “Shab-e Cheleh” (Fortieth Night) is only a social occasion, when families and friends get together for fun and happiness. Shab-e Yalda is the longest and darkest night of the year, it has come to symbolize many things in Persian poetry; separation from a loved one, loneliness and waiting. After Shab-e Yalda a transformation takes place – the waiting is over, light shines and goodness prevails.
Yald Night and New Year (Nowruz) celebrations are two historic and popular celebrations which are celebrated by the Iranians. There are special fruits and foods eaten at this night based on the season since the old times, such as pomegranate, watermelon, fish and rice. The main fruits for Yalda night are watermelons, pomegranates, persimmons, apples and pears, though other fruits such as oranges, tangerines and kiwis are also available in Iran at this time of the year. In old times, the summer fruits such as watermelon, pears and apples were also kept from spoiling in a special cold storage called “storehouse”. Nowadays these fruits are imported fresh ones from the warmer areas. Nuts (Ajil), and dried fruits (khoshkbar) are eaten in Yalda night. The special foods that are prepared for this night change from family to family and also depend on the availability of ingredients in different regions of Iran. The variety is endless but to mention a few: Mahi polo (fish and rice), Fesenjoun, Bademjan Stew and rice, (eggplant stew), Ash-e Reshteh (a kind of noodle soup), and traditional desserts such as Fereni and Shole Zard may be prepared for this night.
Some of the activities in the agenda for the Yalda night event include:
1. Visiting the grandfather or the eldest person in the family,
2. Reciting poetry, reading epic stories especially from Shahnameh (the book of legendary and epic poetry by Ferdowsi) and finally,
3. Playing Persian classical music.
If your travel time to Iran is the same as Yalda Night, you can organize your trip after writing to our correspondence colleagues through e-mail to participate in this celebration. Certainly this night will be one of the most memorable nights of your during travel to Iran.