F & D Rahni
solstice that usually falls on December 21 has been celebrated by human
communities throughout the world for millennia. As many of the oldest
civilizations have evolved between the Indus and Ganji rivers to the east and
Tigris and Euphrates rivers to the west, where current Iran falls in the center,
the celebration has been called Yalda ( aka Daygan) since
antiquity. The word means (re-)birth of the sun. There are other derivations of
the same Syriac (Aramaic) word adopted in the Indo-European Persian language,
such as Tavallod and Milad that are synonymous. Yalda
puts behind the longest night of the year, when daylight begins to become longer
(the triumph of light over darkness). It is also called "Shabe Chelleh",
meaning the first night of a forty day period before another revered Persian
celebration, Jashne Sadeh. The latter is one hundred days before
the grandest Persian commemorations, Norouz, or the Persian New
Year. Yalda was adopted from the Babylonians and incorporated
into Zoroastrianism by Persians.
The ancient Roman festivals of
Saturnalia (God of Agriculture, Saturn) and Sol Invicta
(Sun God) are amongst the best known observances of winter solstice in the West,
and as commemorated by the European pagans. The Romans, especially the
aristocracy celebrated the birthday of Mithra, the Persian Goddess of the
unconquerable sun, on December 25. It was believed that Mithra, an infant god,
was born of a rock. For some Romans, Mithra's birthday was the most sacred day
of the year. In the early years of Christianity,
Easter was the main holiday as the birth of Jesus was not celebrated. In the
fourth century, church officials decided to institute the birth of Jesus as a
holiday, which was thought to have occurred in spring. Pope Julius I, however,
chose December 25 for the birth of Jesus in order to mask the the pagan
Saturnalia or Mithra festival. Mithra (Mehr) is responsible for protecting "the
light of dawn called Havangah." The day after Yalda, known as "khoram
rooz" or "khore rooz" (the day of sun) belongs to Ahura Mazda, the
Lord of Wisdom.
One of the themes of the
festival was the temporary subversion of order. The king dressed in white would
change place with ordinary people. A mock king was crowned who ruled with
disorder and chaos as they believed order came of chaos, and masquerades spilled
into the streets. As the old year died, rules of ordinary living were relaxed.
Following the Persian tradition, the usual order of the year was suspended.
Grudges and quarrels forgotten, wars would be interrupted or postponed.
Businesses, courts and schools were closed. Rich and poor became equal, masters
served slaves, and children headed the family. Cross-dressing and masquerades,
merriment of all kinds prevailed. A mock king, the Lord of Misrule, was crowned.
Candles and lamps chased away the spirits of darkness.
The Iranian Jews, who are amongst the oldest inhabitants of the country, in
addition to "Shab-e Cheleh", also celebrate the festival of "Illanout"
(tree festival) at around the same time. Their celebration of Illanout is
very similar to Shab-e Cheleh celebration. Candles are lit; all varieties
of dried and fresh winter fruits will have to be present. Special meals are
prepared and prayers are performed.
Citation: Massoume Price (www.cultureofiran.com)
... Payvand News - 12/20/08 ... --