The winter solstice has been a day of ceremony and celebration in nearly every culture and religion throughout history. On the longest night of the year, people all over the world gather in light and warmth to share food and friendship with the ones they love.
In Iran, thousands of people observe the ancient Persian solstice celebration known as Yalda, or Shab-e Yalda, meaning Night of Birth. In the Mithraist religion, Mithra, angel of light and truth, was believed to have been born on the morning of the solstice.
Today, though, Yalda is a lot like Thanksgiving: a time for the whole family to gather together to visit, reconnect, tell stories and jokes, stay up late, and of course share food! A staple of the Yalda feast is the appetizer spread of pomegranate, watermelon, dried or fresh fruit, nuts, and sweets, all laid out along a communal table for the family to nibble at while they catch up. The main courses can include any number of Persian savory dishes, like eggplant spreads, noodle soups or seafood.
photo taken by Azita for Turmeric & Saffron
There’s a romantic side to the Yalda celebration, too: in some parts of the country, it’s traditional for engaged men to send a gift basket to his fiancee and her family. We think that should be a tradition in every country, regardless of the season!
To learn more about the flavors and festivities of Yalda, you should check out the amazing Persian cuisine blog Turmeric & Saffron.