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Encyclopedia > Yalda
A variety of foodstuff that are consumed on Yalda
A variety of foodstuff that are consumed on Yalda

Yaldā also known as Shab-e Cheleh is celebrated on the eve of the first day of the winter (December 21) in the Iranian calendar, which falls on the Winter Solstice. It celebrates the birth of Sun god Mithra. Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (1600x1200, 286 KB) A table cloth with a variety of Yalda favorites taken by Eliza Tasbihi. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (1600x1200, 286 KB) A table cloth with a variety of Yalda favorites taken by Eliza Tasbihi. ... Winter is one of the four seasons of temperate zones. ... December 21 is the 355th day of the year (356th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... A solstice is either of the two events of the year when the sun is at its greatest distance from the equatorial plane. ... Mithra (Avestan Miθra, modern Persian مهر Mihr, Mehr, Meher) is an important deity or divine concept (so called Yazata) in Zoroastrianism and later Persian mythology and culture. ...

Contents

Historical background

The festival was considered extremely important in pre-Islamic Iran and continues to be celebrated to this day, for a period of more than 6000 years.


Some historians believe that the festival spread to Europe through contacts between the Roman and Persian empires and was eventually replaced by Christmas; a theory that accounts for the celebration of Christmas on 25 December, rather than the later date of January 6 that is believed to be the correct date of birth of Christ by eastern orthodox church. This article or section may contain original research or unverified claims. ... The Persian Empire was a series of historical empires that ruled over the Iranian plateau (Irān - Land of the Aryans[1]) and beyond. ... Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday that marks the traditional birthdate of Jesus of Nazareth. ... December 25 is the 359th day of the year (360th in leap years) in the Gregorian Calendar, with 6 days remaining for the year. ... January 6 is the 6th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ...


Yalda, a Syriac word (ܝܠܕܐ) imported into the Persian language by the Syriac Christians means birth (tavalod and meelaad are from the same origin) and generally refers to Christmas in the Syriac language. It is a relatively recent arrival and it is refereed to the "Shab e Cheleh Festival" a celebration of Winter Solstice on December 21. Forty days before the next major Persian festival "Jashn-e Sadeh" this night has been celebrated in countless cultures for thousands of years. The ancient Roman festivals of Saturnalia (God of Agriculture, Saturn) and Sol Invictus (Sun God) are among the best known in the Western world. Syriac is an Eastern Aramaic language that was once spoken across much of the Fertile Crescent. ... Persian, (local name: FārsÄ« or PārsÄ«), is an Indo-European language spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and by minorities in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Southern Russia, neighboring countries, and elsewhere. ... This article is about the religous people known as Christians. ... Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday that marks the traditional birthdate of Jesus of Nazareth. ... December 21 is the 355th day of the year (356th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Sadeh or Jashan-e Sadeh (in Persian: ‎) is an ancient Iranian tradition celebrated 50 days before nowrouz. ... Saturnalia was the feast at which the Romans commemorated the dedication of the temple of the god Saturn, which took place on 17 December. ... Coin of Emperor Probus, circa 280, with Sol Invictus riding a quadriga, with legend SOLI INVICTO, to the undefeated Sun. Sol Invictus (the unconquered sun) or, more fully, Deus Sol Invictus (the unconquered sun god) was a religious title applied to three distinct divinities during the later Roman Empire. ...


In most ancient cultures, including Persia, the start of the solar year has been marked to celebrate the victory of light over darkness and the renewal of the Sun. For instance, Egyptians, four thousand years ago celebrated the rebirth of the sun at this time of the year. They set the length of the festival at 12 days, to reflect the 12 divisions in their sun calendar. They decorated with greenery, using palms with 12 shoots as a symbol of the completed year, since a palm was thought to put forth a shoot each month.


The last day of the Persian month Azar is the longest night of the year, when the forces of Ahriman are assumed to be at the peak of their strength. While the next day, the first day of the month Dey known as khoram rooz or khore rooz (the day of sun) belongs to Ahura Mazda, the Lord of Wisdom. Since the days are getting longer and the nights shorter, this day marks the victory of Sun over the darkness. The occasion was celebrated in the festival of "Daygan" dedicated to Ahura Mazda, on the first day of the month Dey. Angra Mainyu or Ahriman was the evil spirit in the dualistic strain of Zoroastrianism. ... Ahura Mazda is the Avestan language name for an exalted divinity of ancient proto-Indo-Iranian religion that was subsequently declared by Zarathustra (Zoroaster) to be the one uncreated creator of all (God). ...


Yalda ceremony

Fires would be burnt all night to ensure the defeat of the forces of Ahriman. There would be feasts, acts of charity and a number of deities were honored and prayers performed to ensure the total victory of sun that was essential for the protection of winter crops. There would be prayers to Mithra (Mehr) and feasts in his honor, since Mithra is the Yazat responsible for protecting "the light of the early morning" known as Havangah. It was also assumed that Ahura Mazda would grant people's wishes, specially those with no offspring had the hope to be blessed with children if performed all rites on this occasion. Angra Mainyu or Ahriman was the evil spirit in the dualistic strain of Zoroastrianism. ...


One of the themes of the festival was the temporary subversion of order. Masters and servants reversed roles. The king dressed in white would change place with ordinary people. A mock king was crowned and masquerades spilled into the streets. As the old year died, rules of ordinary living were relaxed. This tradition persisted till Sassanian period, and is mentioned by Biruni and others in their recordings of pre-Islamic rituals and festivals.


Its traditional impact

The Persian traditions merged in ancient Rome, in a festival to the ancient god of seed time, Saturn. The Romans exchanged gifts, partied and decorated their homes with greenery. Following the Persian tradition, the usual order of the year was suspended. Grudges and quarrels forgotten, wars would be interrupted or postponed. Businesses, courts and schools were closed. Rich and poor became equal, masters served slaves, and children headed the family. Cross-dressing and masquerades, merriment of all kinds prevailed. A mock king, the Lord of Misrule, was crowned. Candles and lamps chased away the spirits of darkness.


Another related Roman festival celebrated at the same time was dedicated to Sol Invictus ("the invincible sun"), originally known as Mithra Originally a Persian deity, this cult was imported by Emperor Elagabalus into Rome and Sol was made god of the state. With the spread of Christianity, Christmas celebration became the most important Christian festival. Coin of Emperor Probus, circa 280, with Sol Invictus riding a quadriga, with legend SOLI INVICTO, to the undefeated Sun. Sol Invictus (the unconquered sun) or, more fully, Deus Sol Invictus (the unconquered sun god) was a religious title applied to three distinct divinities during the later Roman Empire. ... Mithra (Avestan Miθra, modern Persian مهر Mihr, Mehr, Meher) is an important deity or divine concept (so called Yazata) in Zoroastrianism and later Persian mythology and culture. ... The beliefs and practices of the culturally and linguistically related group of ancient peoples who inhabited the Iranian Plateau and its borderlands, as well as areas of Central Asia from the Black Sea to Khotan (modern Ho-tien, China), form Persian mythology. ... A bust depicting Elagabalus. ... This article is becoming very long. ...


In the third century various dates, from December to April, were celebrated by Christians as Christmas. January 6 was the most favored day because it was thought to be Jesus' baptismal day (in the Greek Orthodox Church this continues to be the day to celebrate Christmas). In year 350, December 25 was adopted in Rome and gradually almost the entire Christian Church agreed to that date, which coincided, with Winter Solstice and the festivals, Sol Invicta and Saturnalia. Many of the rituals and traditions of the pagan festivals were incorporated into the Christmas celebration and are still observed today. January 6 is the 6th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... The Eastern Orthodox Church is the second largest Christian organization in the world (or third if one sees Protestantism as a single entity). ... December 25 is the 359th day of the year (360th in leap years) in the Gregorian Calendar, with 6 days remaining for the year. ...


Yalda and Islam

With the conquest of Islam the religious significance of the ancient Persian festivals was lost. Today "Shab e Cheleh" is an important social occasion, when family and friends get together for fun and merriment. Usually families gather at their elders homes. Different kinds of dried fruits, nuts, seeds and fresh winter fruits are consumed. The presence of dried and fresh fruits is reminiscence of the ancient feasts to celebrate and pray to the deities to ensure the protection of the winter crops. Islam (Arabic:  ) is a monotheistic religion based upon the Quran, its principal scripture, whose followers, known as Muslims (مسلم), believe God (Arabic: الله ) sent through revelations to Muhammad. ...


As a novelty, watermelons may appear at the Korsi. The Korsi is a traditional furniture similar to a very short table, around which the family sit on the ground. On it, a blanket made of wool filling is thrown, people leave their legs under the blanket. Inside the korsi, heat is generated by means of coal, electricity or gas heaters.


The tradition of family gathering survives today in full force. Iranian radio and television continue to have special programming for the night of Yalda.


The 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. Bonfires are made; dances are performed that resemble crop harvesting. Comparison and detailed studies of all these celebrations no doubt will shed more light on the forgotten aspects of this wonderful and ancient festival, where merriment was the main theme of the festival. Persian Jews, or Iranian Jews, are a group of ancient Jewish communities living throughout the former greatest extents of the Persian Empire. ...


See also

The following is a List of Festivals in Iran (Persia): // Persian National Festivals Mehregan Norouz Yalda Chahar Shanbeh Suri (Shab-e Cheleh) Zoroastrian Please improve this section according to the posted request for expansion. ...

External links

  • Ancient Iranian Calendars, Customs, Festivals & Rituals (CAIS)
  • Ancient Iranian Mythology (CAIS)

  Results from FactBites:
 
Iranian Persian Festival of Yalda, Shab-e Yalda, Night of Yalda, Shab-e Cheleh, Christmas Celebration in Ancient ... (1081 words)
Yalda, a Syric word imported into the Persian language by the Syric Christians means birth (tavalud and melaad are from the same origin).
It is not clear when and how the world "Yalda" entered the Persian language.
Gradually "Shab e Yalda" and "Shab e Cheleh" became synonymous and the two are used interchangeably.
Yalda - A Persian Celebration of Light - Spirituality (623 words)
Yalda is a festival that is thought to have been adopted by the Persians from the Babylonians.
In fact, the Roman festival of Saturnalia was borrowed from the festival of Yalda at a later date.
Yalda, more often called Shab e Cheleh’ in Iran of today, is more of a social occasion than a festival.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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