Shab-e Yalda or Yalda Night is a festival celebrated on the “longest night of the year” in Iran. Yalda is a winter solstice celebration. That is, in the night of the Northern Hemisphere’s winter solstice. this corresponds to the night of December 20/21, and to the night between the last day of the ninth month (Azar) and the first day of the tenth month (Dey) of the Iranian calendar.
Every year, on December 21st, Iranians celebrate the arrival of winter, the renewal of the sun and the victory of light over darkness on Yalda Night. Ancient Iranians believed that the dawning of each year is marked with the re-emergence or rebirth of the sun, an event which falls on the first day of the month of Dey in the Iranian calendar (December 21).
On this day, the sun was salvaged from the claws of the devil, which is represented by darkness, and gradually spread its rays all over the world to symbolize the triumph of good over evil. Family members get together (most often in the house of the eldest member) and stay awake all night long in Yalda. Pomegranate, watermelon and dried nuts are served as a tradition and classic poetry and old mythologies are read in the gathering. It is believed that eating watermelons on the night of Chelleh will ensure the health and well-being of the individual during the months of summer by protecting him from falling victim to excessive heat or disease. In Khorasan, there is a belief that whoever eats carrots, pears, pomegranates, and green olives will be protected against the harmful bite of insects, especially scorpions. Eating garlic on this night protects one against pains in the joints. Getting a ‘Hafez reading’ from the book of great Persian poet Shamsu d-Din Muhammad Hafez-e Shirazi is also practiced. Another custom performed in certain parts of Iran on the night of Chelleh involves young engaged couples. The men send an edible arrangement containing seven kinds of fruits and a variety of gifts to their fiancees on this night. In some areas, the girl and her family return the favour by sending gifts back for the young man. Central Asian countries such as Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and some Caucasian states such as Azerbaijan and Armenia share the same tradition as well and celebrate Yalda Night annually at this time of the year.