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Happy Shab e Cheleh
Sat Dec 22, 2012 5:52 pmForum Host
Shab-e Yaldā (Persian: یلدا) or Shab-e Chelleh (Persian: شب چله) is an Iranian festival originally celebrated on the Northern Hemisphere's longest night of the year, that is, on the eve of the Winter Solstice (the solstice this year is on Monday, December 21, 2012).
The word Yalda is Syriac, means Birth. It has a history as long as history of ancient Persia (nowadays Iran). The celebration is from the time that Mithraism had its influence on the Zoroastrian peoples.
Ancient people used to believe that Yalda, the longest night of year is the victory of light over darkness which has given birth to the Sun. There would be feasts, acts of charity and a number of deities honored and prayers performed to ensure the total victory of the sun that was essential for the protection of winter crops
The tradition of decorating trees with nuts was part of the Yalda festival, which nowadays has given its place to eating them, going to the eldest person in the family's house and reading Hafiz poems.
Over time, Yalda became a social occasion when family and close friends would get together. Nonetheless, the obligatory serving of fresh fruit during mid-winter is reminiscent of the ancient customs of invoking the divinities to request protection of the winter crop.
Iranian Jews, who are amongst the oldest inhabitants of the country, in addition to "Shab e Cheleh" also celebrate the festival of "Illanout" (tree festival) at around the same time.
Their celebration of Illanout is very similar to Shab e Cheleh celebration. Candles are lit; all varieties of dried and fresh winter fruits will have to be present. Special meals are prepared and prayers are performed.
There are also very similar festivals in many parts of Southern Russia that are identical to "Shab e Cheleh" festival with local variations. Sweet breads are baked in shape of humans and animals. Bon fires are made; dances are performed that resemble crop harvesting.
Happy Shab e Cheleh
GREAT Iranian/Persian Recipes
Mon Dec 24, 2012 6:16 pmForum Host
Thank you Molly for this lovely post.
It's good to remember that the winter festivals of most very old cultures (pre Christian) are greatly similar. They share the use of a tree, usually evergreen, candles, thanks and rites to assure and welcome the return of the sun.
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