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Shab-e-Yalda in Afghanistan

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By: Masouda Qarizada

Shab-e Yalda ”Yalda night” or Shab-e Chelleh ”night of forty” is a festival celebrated on the “longest and darkest night of the year.
Yalda is a winter solstice celebration, that is, in the night of the Northern Hemisphere’s winter solstice. Calendrically, this corresponds to the night of December 20/21 in the Gregorian calendar, and to the night between the last day of the ninth month Qaws and the first day of the tenth month Jadi of the solar civil calendar.
The longest and darkest night of the year is a time when friends and family gather together to eat, drink and read poetry (especially Hafez) until well after midnight.
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. The poems of Divan-e Hafez, which can be found in the bookcases of most families, are read or recited on various occasions such as this festival and Nowruz.
The festival dates back to the time when a majority of Persians were followers of Zoroastrianism. Yalda is celebrated every year in Afghanistan and neighboring countries such as Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and other neighboring countries.
 In the yalda night, it is a custom to invite guest or go to the invitation, more common to go to the eldest member of the family. This night is celebrate by serving watermelon, pomegranate and different kind of nuts.  They sit around the cathedra which is a traditional substance that which is warm inside due to put fired charcoal and it covered with blanket.
 Read the Book of Poetry and mythology talking about the old time and Yearn for the better future with special pray which they do during the Yalda Night, and it is a special pray, all should raise both their hands   and the patriarch person pray and other internally pray for their own wishes. In yalda night it is a belief those who begin winter by eating summer fruits would not fall ill during the cold season.
Therefore, eating watermelons is one of the most important traditions in this night. Pomegranates, placed on top of a fruit basket, are reminders of the cycle of life—the rebirth and revival of generations. The purple outer covering of a pomegranate is a symbol of birth or dawn, and their bright red seeds the light of life.  
Ancient Persians believed that evil forces were dominant on the longest night of the year and that the next day belonged to the Lord of Wisdom, Ahura Mazda.
In yalda night it is a custom to stay awake since late of midnight. On Yalda festival, Afghan celebrate the arrival of winter, the renewal of the sun and the victory of light over darkness. Since the days become longer and nights shorter, this day marks the victory of the sun over darkness.

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The Kabul Times.