Winter Solstice and How Persians Celebrate

At last we have come full circle to another Winter Solstice. Tonight marks the longest night and shortest day of the year with the latest dawn and the sun at its lowest point in the sky. The solstice occurs at the same instant everywhere on Earth. This moment varies slightly every year, but always marks the shortest day and longest night of that year. This year in the United States, it happens at 8:48 p.m. PT December 21st (11:48 p.m. ET, 10:48 p.m. CT, and 9:48 p.m. MT). In Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia, that means the solstice actually comes on Tuesday. The solstice is the astronomical beginning of winter — the start of the coldest three months in the Northern Hemisphere. After the solstice, the days slowly start to get longer again. It is also considered the start of the solar year.

winter soltice

Historically, many cultures revered the Winter Solstice as a time to take stock, and express gratitude for Nature. Ancient pagan cultures were among its biggest fans. It’s a time to embrace evergreens and as the days get longer we celebrate light and the rebirth of the Sun.

This year I’m bringing to you the Iranian festival of Shabo-e Yaldā, a festival celebrated on the longest and darkest night of the year, when it is a time for friends and family to gather together to eat, drink and read poetry until well after midnight. The poetry of Hafez, a classic Persian poet is especially read. The poems of Divan-e-Hafez, which can be found in the bookcases of most Iranians families, are intermingled with peoples’ life and are read or recited during various occasions like this festival. Fruits and nuts are eaten and pomegranates and watermelons are particularly significant. The red color in these fruits symbolizes the crimson hues of dawn and glow of life.

Iranian Winter Solstice

Food plays a central role in the present-day form of the celebrations. In most parts of Iran the extended family come together and enjoy a fine dinner. A wide variety of fruits and sweetmeats specifically prepared or kept for this night are served.  In some areas it is custom that forty varieties of edibles should be served during the ceremony of the night of Yalda representing the night opening the initial forty-day period of the three-month winter also known as Chella.

To celebrate the winter solstice, I would like to bring to your attention a free 20-minute voice-guided Winter Solstice Meditation, available for download at until December 31st.

So, meditate, bring some light to your heart with poetry readings, and savor a few pomegranate and watermelon nibbles for good luck.

Merry Wishes for this Winter Solstice!

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