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.CAIS NEWS©

ARCHAEOLOGICAL & CULTURAL NEWS OF THE IRANIAN WORLD

 

Iranians Join to Celebrate Yalda Night

 

21 December 2006

 

 

 

LONDON, (CAIS) -- While the Christians all over the world are preparing themselves for celebrating Christmas, the Iranians in Iran and outside are getting ready to celebrate one of their most ancient celebrations, Yalda, the birth of Mithra, the Sun God .

 

Shab-e Yalda (Night of Yalda), celebrated on 21 December, has great significance in the Iranian calendar. It is the eve of the birth of Mithra, the Sun God, the god of pre-Zoroastrian Iran, who symbolised light, goodness and strength on earth. Shab-e Yalda is a time of joy.

 

Yalda is a Syriac word meaning birth. Ancient Iranian Mithra-worshippers used the term 'yalda' specifically with reference to the birth of Mithra. As the longest night of the year, the Eve of Yalda (Shab-e Yalda) is also a turning point, after which the days grow longer. In ancient times it symbolised the triumph of the Sun God over the powers of darkness.

 

Sasanian dynasty of Iran (224-651 CE), made Zoroastrian the Empire's official religion, but Mithra's importance remained undiminished. Over the centuries Mithraism spread to Greece and Ancient Rome via Asia Minor, gaining popularity within the ranks of the Roman army. In the 4th century CE as a result of errors made in calculating leap years and dates, the birthday of Mithra was transferred to 25 December. Until then Christ's birthday had been celebrated on 6 January by all branches of the Christian Church. But with the cult of Mithra still popular in Roman Europe, the Christian Church adopted many of the Mithraic rituals and proclaimed 25 December as the official birthday of Christ. Today the Armenian and Eastern Orthodox Churches continue to celebrate January 6th, as the Christ's birthday.

 

It was said that Mithra was born out of the light that came from within the Alborz mountains. 

 

In Iran today, despite of the advent of Islam, Yalda is still celebrated widely by Iranians. It is a time when friends and family gather together to eat, drink and read poetry, until well after midnight. Fruits and nuts are eaten and pomegranates and watermelons are particularly significant. The red colour in these fruits symbolises the crimson hues of dawn and glow of life, invoking the splendour of God Mithra.

 

Because Shab-e Yalda is the longest and darkest night, it has come to symbolise 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.

 

 

Happy Yalda to all.

 

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