The holidays are always a time of warmth and celebration. As Christians we know this time of year to be one where we remember the birth of Jesus Christ and celebrate His purpose here on earth.
In Iran, however, the holiday season goes about a little differently. While Christmas is recognized by many Iranians and even celebrated by the Christian minority groups within the country, winter brings another holiday that holds much deeper cultural roots within the Iranian
Yalda Night (Shabe Yalda) is an Iranian festival celebrated on what is referred to as the "longest and darkest night of the year."
Yalda Night celebrates the northern hemisphere's winter solstice. This day falls around December 20 according to the Gregorian calendar, and falls on the night between the last day of the ninth month (Azar) and the first day of the tenth month (Dey) on the Iranian calendar.
So how do Iranians celebrate?
This night is a time when friends and family gather together to eat special foods and read poetry until well after midnight.
Pomegranates and watermelons are particularly significant during this night because of their red color, which to Iranians symbolize the colors of dawn.
However, what many people don't know is that in ancient Zoroastrian tradition, Yalda Night and the traditions practiced on that night were used to keep evil away on the darkest night of the year. It was said that evil forces were at work during Yalda Night, and thus people were advised to stay awake most of the night so that no harm would come to them. Superstitious fears are not uncommon in the Iranian community, and must be battled by the truth of God's Word.
As we pray for Iran, let us pray that these chains of superstition are broken in the name of Jesus Christ.
1 John 1: 5 tells us that "...God is light, and in him is no darkness at all."
As the light of His truth shines, all fears will fade and even the longest and darkest nights will break into a glorious dawn.