The longest night of the year, Yalda has been celebrated by Persians for almost 5,000 years, originally based on the belief that this night is the time of Mitra or the sun’s birth.
Some researchers believe Mithraism, which was the main faith of Iranians before the emersion Zoroastrianism – the official religion of the Persian Empire – about 2,600 years ago, influenced Christianity which is why their concepts and holy dates are so close.
Yalda is one of many Persian fests that remained alive after Islam entered Iran about 1,400 years ago. But because of its nature it became more and more symbolic in a cultural resistance against the dictatorship and there are many poems and songs referring to it.
This year on December 20, the Yalda night coincided with Thursday night (week-end) and the night before the Mayan End of the World, which added to the celebration.
During the Yalda feast, Iranian families and friends gather and make a beautiful table with Pomegranate, watermelon, pastry, nuts and fruits. They sit together and read poems of Hafiz and stay awake after midnight, dance, sing, eat and drink
Omid Habibinia is an Iranian journalist and media researcher, and the co-founder of the International Association of Independent Iranian Journalists. He recently wrote Iranian journalists – tears and hope.