A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Shab-e Yalda

Tonight is the longest night of the year. The Winter Solstice occurs at 5:44 AM tomorrow. That means tonight is Shab-e Yalda, the night of Yalda, the ancient Persian solstice celebration of the birth of the solar divinity Mithra, said to have been born of a virgin at dawn on the longest night of the year. (Yalda is the Aramaic word for birth.) After the Roman Army spread the veneration of Mihra in the West, the solstice became the Roman feast of Sol Invictus, the Unconquered Sun, when the sun begins it return to the north and the days begin to lengthen.
Traditional foods
Even in the era of the Islamic Republic, Yalda remains a popular seasonal feast, alongside Nowruz in the spring, in areas influenced by Persian culture: Iran, Afghanistan, Kurdistan, parts of the Caucasus and Central Asia, and among Zoroastrians worldwide.

Yalda greetings to all who celebrate, as the holiday season gets underway.

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