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Iranians Throughout the World Celebrate the Birth of Ancient Iran's God Mithra, and the Longest Night


21 December 2007



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LONDON, (CAIS) -- Iranians throughout the world will celebrate the longest night of the Iranian calendar year, Yalda, in a tradition welcoming the birthday of the God of Love and contract, Mithra.


Yalda, the last night of autumn and the beginning of winter, is observed in every Iranian family home or abroad.


On Yalda night, which this year falls on December 21, members of the family stay together, narrate old Persian stories told by ancestors, play traditional games and consume dried and fresh fruits symbolizing various things.

Pomegranates, placed on top of a fruit basket, are reminders of the cycle of life -- the rebirth and revival of generations. The purple outer covering of a pomegranate symbolizes "birth" or "dawn" and their bright red seeds the "glow of life."


Watermelons, apples, grapes, sweet melons and persimmon are other special fruits served on Yalda night and all are symbols of freshness, warmth, love, kindness and happiness.

The word "yalda," is a Syriac version of Middle-Persian Zayishn meaning "birth," has its origins in Iranian culture and  history and has come to symbolize a tradition observed since a thousand years ago in any Iranian family.


Ancient Iranians believed that the dawning of each year is marked with the re-emergence or rebirth of the sun (Mithra), an event which falls on the first day of the month of Day in the Iranian calendar (December 21). On this day, the sun was salvaged from the claws of the evil, which is represented by darkness, and gradually spread its rays all over the world to symbolize the triumph of good over evil.

Since Yalda night 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 the night is over a transformation takes place -- the waiting is over, a new life begins and good triumphs over evil.


Reading poems of the Iranian poet, Hafez, is one of the most familiar activities on Yalda night.

Happy Zayishn to all.



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