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Greetings for the Winter Solstice and Shab-e Yalda

December 21, 2013
file from the Wikimedia Commons

file from Wikimedia Commons

21st December 2013 is the time to celebrate both the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and the Persian equivalent, the Shab-e Yalda or Night of Birth.  Both festivals mark the longest night and shortest day during the year, an occasion for celebration since we have reached mid winter, or, in ancient Mithraism, the night of the birth of Mithra, and the renewal of the sun.

We are not aware of any specific mentions of Shab-e Yalda in the Rubaiyat verses, though Omar Khayyam would have been well aware of the ancient Zoroastrian traditions.  Wikipedia gives a slightly later quote from the poet Sa’di ‘The true morning will not come, until Yalda Night is gone’.  Our study of the FitzGerald letters has not turned up any mentions of the Winter Solstice, though he was very aware of the seasonal changes and would have noted the changes in the calendar.

Many Iranians still follow the tradition of families and friends meeting together on Shab-e Yalda to eat fresh fruits and nuts, drink and read poetry.  It is a time for small presents and other greetings. Sadly observance of the Winter Solstice in the west has been submerged in the Christmas calendar, though the latter contains vestiges of the more ancient customs.  Perhaps this historic festival can be revived?!

We send all this blog’s ‘followers’ and other readers Solsticial Greetings and best wishes for the year ahead.

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