December 18, 2009

Persian Yalda Celebration: Celebrating The Longest Night of the Year!

 شب یلدا Shab-e Yalda (Night of Yalda) refers to the longest night of the year, the beginning of winter and the triumph of light over darkness. Monday, December 21, is the winter solstice (yalda) which  has been celebrated in our culture for hundreds of years. On the eve of yalda, families and friends gather together, stay up till midnight, tell stories, reminisce and read poetry while sipping hot tea and eating sweet watermelon, pomegranate and an assortment of nuts and seeds.

It's a night that we take out the poetry book of Hafez and recite from it. Those who are familiar with Hafiz's poetry know that  there's not a single translation that can capture its true meaning and essence. With that said, here's a translation of a verse by Hafez, one of the greatest Persian poets of all time.

O pious of the heart, I am lost in a love so great
O pain the hidden secrets will become open debate.
Shipwrecked we just float, O favorable wind arise,
may we one more gaze upon that familiar trait.
Passage of time and the stars, are but what we fantasize
for compassion and kindness, it's never too late.
In the circle of wine and roses, nightingale's song is prize
with the aroma and the wine your senses satiate.
O Thou compassionate one, life giver and the wise
one day bestow thy grace upon this mendicant's state.
For peace of this world and the next, understand what I advise
magnanimity the lot of friends, and wise foes try to relate.
In the land of repute, our passage they will dispute
if this will not suit, don't stay mute, and transmute distastes of fate.
When destitute and in need, let your love and passion breed
life's alchemy, essence and seed, unimagined wealth shall create.
If unruly with pride, with a candle's zeal your flame will rise
Beloved turns stone to lave, and molten wax manipulate.
The Grail contains but wine, if only you realize
then the Kingdom of the world, at your but prostrate.
The good and wise magi, forgivers of lives and lies
bearer bring good news, drunkards' wine consecrate.
With this wine stained robe, Hafiz would never disguise
o untainted pure master, exempt us from this fate.

Poem by Hafez
~ Translation by Shahriar Shahriari

I can't help but think about all those Iranians that kept these festivities alive throughout the centuries amidst the sometimes harsh and unfavorable circumstances. I owe every one of them a heartfelt thank you and gratitude. They have kept the hope alive and passed it on year after year. I hope to join in with all the Iranians, if not in person but in spirit, and celebrate the victory of good over evil.

Happy Yalda, Yalda Mobarak!


  1. Yalda Mubarik, dear Azita. xx

  2. Dear Shayma, thanks and Yalda Mubarik to you too. xo

  3. Happy Yalda,Azita :) It's Nice to find your nice site, I would like to learn about Persian Food. My husband is iranian, and I just learn how to cook Persian food from book but sometime not enough, i hope you don't mind if I ask you some recipes (someday) :)

  4. Captivating , a very interesting persian festive occasion is introduced here , when love lights the darkest night of the year.
    Happy Yalda

  5. Fitri- thank you for stopping by and commenting. I'm certain that your Persian meals are very delicious. I've seen some of your photos on Flickr and on your lovely blog. However, please let me know if you have a question.

    Happy Yalda to you and your family.

  6. Gabriel- "When love lights the darkest night of the year." Indeed. Thanks.

    Happy Yalda

  7. This poem brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing it. I wish I could read Hafiz in farsi!

  8. J'aime la cuisine iranienne qui est peu connue, malheureusement en Europe.
    Je suis contente d'avoir découvert ton blog.
    Je reviendrai te voir.
    Yalda mubarik

  9. Beautiful post, Azita. Thank you. It brought a tear to my eye. I always get a bit emotional around the holidays. ;-)

  10. Saveurs et Gourmandises- Thanks for visiting. I'll visit you soon. Merci! Yalda Mobarak

    Bria- Thanks so much, I'm glad you liked the post.Happy Yalda.

    My Persian Kitchen Jan- shab-e Yalda-ie shoma ham Mobarak!

  11. Shabe yaldat mobarak azizam!!! :)
    Ba behtarin arezooha

  12. Mamnoonam Parisa jan. Shabe yaldaie shoma ham khayli mobarak. Khosh o khandan o salem o movafagh bashi, hamisheh.

  13. Happy Holidays and very Happy New year to you Azita!

  14. I sense a hidden yearning in your Yalda celebration. Perhaps in time, good will finally triumph over evil.

    Happy Yalda.

  15. Soma- I wish you a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year. Have a wonderful holiday!

    Neil- Your comment touched my heart and I sure do hope so! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
    Happy Holidays!