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Welcome to my blog! True to my name, Shiva the Spy, I will be your eyes and ears in Iran, bringing you detailed accounts of everyday life from my perspective. You'll have a window into the social, cultural, political, and historical aspects of the country. I will bring you the stuff that American media can't...or won't. So, check back regularly for stories, photos, commentary, and anything else your curiosity calls for.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Night of Yalda

Last night was Shab e Yalda, the longest and darkest night of the year, also known as Winter Solstice. Iranians spent the last two days preparing for festivities--yesterday, the streets were packed with people either leaving early from work, shopping for the night's traditional foods, or on their way to a party.

This ancient holiday dates back to Zoroastrian times, and is celebrated through rejoicing with family and friends. Every Yalda party will likely have plenty of watermelon and pomegranate in stock, with the latter symbolizing liveliness and joy, and the former is thought to keep people healthy during the winter season.

When I got home last night, I heard our neighbors' music and clapping continue on until at least 2:30 a.m. That has got to be the latest partying I've ever encountered in Iran.

Iran Daily (Dec. 21) reports that Yalda represents the birth of the Zoroastrian goddess Mitra as well as of Jesus Christ:
...the Europeans used to celebrate Yalda, but, after Christianity replaced Mehr customs, Christian leaders found out that it was impossible to ignore Mehr as its memory lived on among the people. So they decided to replace the celebration of birthday of Mehr (sun) by celebrating the brith of Jesus Christ (PBUH) on December 25. There is a slight gap between Yalda festivity and Christ's birthday owning to miscalculation in the calendar. In fact the birthday of Jesus Christ (PBUH) is on the same day as followers of Mehr customs celebrate Yalda festivity....

According to Iranian mythology, Yalda festivity is the culmination of conflict between light and dark (Ahura and Ahriman). Ahriman enjoys the longest night and the darkness of the night in the conflict, but, the light came out victorious in the struggle and the Sun was born. After the birth of the Sun, the day (light) gradually became longer from the minimum at the time of the conflict.

The article went on to show the universality of the theme light vs. darkness, as it traverses both Christian and Islamic cultures.

Happy Yalda, and the real Christmas!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

thats interesting, i have a friend whose last name is yalda (she's iraqi and catholic. interesting). i'm like stalking you, btw. first your face book and now your blog.

11:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very fascinating. The way Christmas is celebrated in the West comes from pre-Christian pagan celebrations of the Winter Solstice. The ancient Europeans, much like Iranians, worshipped nature, including trees and plants. This is where the Christmas tree, Christmas wreaths and mistletoe come from.

I am glad to hear that Iranians can keep their own traditions. In many countries, the consumer version of Christmas has become a holiday, even if people are not Christians. This Christmas comes with no spiritual meaning, just a celebration of buying things, and imitating Western ways of living.

8:38 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Happy Yalda (belated)

2:10 PM  
Blogger Pouyan said...

No posting anymore from Yalda. Did you stop writing?

11:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Anonymous,
A Catholic Iraqi is an interesting combo...and by the way, stalk away. Happy New Year, and if it's you, Noor, Happy Graduation!!

Hi, Agha Havayi,
Thanks for enlightening us with knowledge from your vast mental database. Always a pleasure. By the way, I learned recently that the Christmas Tree springs directly from Zoroastrian roots. But, as you mentioned, many of these symbols today contain no deeper, religious importance. Iranian stores are likely putting up Christmas Trees because it's thought they add a Westernized, "bah-kelas" (high-class) flair that appeals to many Iranians, which means cha-ching!

Hi, Steve,
Thank you!

Hi, Pouyan,
Nope, didn't stop writing, just got really cold, and had to wait until my fingers thawed, so I could type.

10:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for enlightening us with knowledge from your vast mental database.

"vast mental database" are quite flattering descriptions. Many people remarked to me before that my situation is more like "giant mental junkyard"!


Yalda-e shoma mobarak!

2:07 PM  

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