We celebrate the longest and darkest night of the year, known as Shabe Yalda – Yalda Night, in Iran. After this night, the days become longer again, the nights shorter, and light triumphs over darkness. Yalda signifies the birth of light and the sun. Friends and family gather on this night at the home of the oldest family members to celebrate the Festival of Joy until dawn. Here are my recipes for Shab-e Yalda; enjoy preparing and celebrating!
Since my grandmother (Haj Khanum) lived with us, all of her children (she had four boys and four girls, and they, in turn, had 4-10 children) would come to our house. Haj Khanum would place candles around our home and yard and prepare the Korsi with us. A Korsi is only set up in the cold winters and serves to warm everyone. As we were a large family, my grandma assembled several small, low, square tables and threw the most beautiful blankets (Ru Korsi) in the house over them. We decorated our Korsi with candles, Diwan-e-Hafez, Persian tea, Ajil (dried fruits and nuts), watermelons, shirini (sweets) and pomegranate seeds. While the women were busy decorating and arranging, my father heated charcoal on a metal grill in the yard. To my father, the coal needed to be covered in a thick layer of ash, as this was the only way the charcoal could slowly release its heat. He then placed the hot grill under the table. You should know that a Persian grill has very short legs.
Oh, How we looked forward to the Korsi as children! It was so cozy sitting on the floor under the blankets; our feet got nice and warm, and my grandma told us stories about memories from her life. The youngest and sometimes even the older ones would regularly fall asleep in this comforting atmosphere. We shared jokes and stories, and the elders smoked Ghelyoon (water pipe) and drank wine. The children were allowed to stay up late into the night. On this unique evening, we expressed our love for each other.
TRADITIONAL CUSTOMS ON SHABE YALDA
We cracked nuts (Ajil) and ate pomegranates, Shirini (Sweets), Topak Khorma, and watermelons. The red fruits symbolize the colors of dusk and the brilliance of life. Eating watermelons is believed to ensure health during the cold season. The mixture of Ajil for this evening must include the following ingredients: pistachios, hazelnuts, almonds, green raisins, walnuts, dried apricots, roasted chickpeas, and mulberries. While eating the nuts, we can make wishes so they will come true. Fal-e-Hafez is also an important part of Shabe Yalda. A fal is divination – we open a page of the book of Diwan-e-Hafez (great Persian poet), read the poem aloud, and interpreted accordingly.
I wish everyone, no matter which holiday you celebrate, Happy Yalda,
Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas and Frohe Weihnachten.
Shabe Yalda Mobarak.
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