Yalda ("birth"), or Zayeshmehr ("Birth of Mithra"), Shab-e Yalda ("Night of Birth"), or Shab-e Chelleh ("Night of Forty") is the Iranian winter solstice celebration which has been popular since ancient times. Yalda is celebrated on the Northern Hemisphere's longest night of the year, that is, on the eve of the Winter Solstice. Depending on the shift of the calendar, Yalda is celebrated on or around December 20 or 21 each year.
Yalda has a history which date back to pre-Zoroastrian times. It marks the celebration of the Iranian Sun-god Mithra (or Mehr). Followers of Mithra or Mithraists believed that this night is the night of the birth of Mithra, Persian angel of light and truth. At the morning of the longest night of the year the Mithra was born.
Following the fall of the Sasanian Empire and the subsequent rise of Islam in Persia, the religious significance of the event was lost, and like other Zoroastrian festivals, Yalda became a social occasion when family and close friends would get together. Nonetheless, the obligatory serving of fresh fruit during mid-winter is reminiscent of the ancient customs of invoking the divinities to request protection of the winter crop.
... Payvand News - 12/23/13 ... --