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Yalda: Zoroastrian Winter Solstice Celebration

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Zoroastrians celebrate the winter solstice as a triumph of good over evil as nights begin to shorten as the time of daylight lengthens. This celebration is commonly known as Yalda or Shab-e Yalda.

Shab-e Cheleh:

The celebration was originally known as Shab-e Cheleh, and this term is still used interchangeably with Shab-e Yalda. Fire and light are strongly associated with goodness and Ahura Mazda, while darkness is associated with Angra Mainyu, the destructive spirit against whom Zoroastrians struggle. The solstice was thus seen as the height of Angra Mainyu's power, after which it wanes in the face of the growing light of Ahura Mazda.

Shab-e Yalda:

The solstice is also associated with the birth of Mithra, a yazata that has become strongly associated with the light of Ahura Mazda. The word yalda is actually Persian for "birth."

Yalda as Cultural Holiday:

While the majority of Persians are now Muslims, Yalda is still widely celebrated as a cultural holiday, primarily marked as a time of feasting among family and friends.

Celebrations:

Celebrations can include the lighting of fires as a reminder of the triumph of light and hearken back to days where fires were set to beat back Angra Mainyu on his strongest night. Feasts are commonly consumed by family and friends. A mixture of nuts and seeds is commonly passed around as a snack and is said to bring prosperity. The meal itself often consists of eggplant stew, saffron-flavored rice, chicken, yogurt, and brownies made from saffron and carrot. Pomegranates and watermelon are particularly associated with Yalda celebrations.
Zoroastrians celebrate the winter solstice as a triumph of good over evil as nights begin to shorten as the time of daylight lengthens. This celebration is commonly known as Yalda or Shab-e Yalda.
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