The underlying message of Yalda for Iranians who mark the traditional celebration: A bright future is on the horizon.
Every year, Iranian families gather on shab-e yalda [Yalda Night] to celebrate the “longest and darkest night of the year.” According to the Gregorian calendar, this festival corresponds to the night of December 20-21. For Iranians, Yalda Night is a time to forget their hardship and routine dilemmas and visit their elder family members.
Regularly, families celebrate Yalda Night at grandparents’ homes. In addition to eating fruits, nuts, and traditional sweets, grandparents eagerly narrate nifty stories and read Hafez’s poetry, the most famous Iranian poet, until after midnight. In fact, at Yalda Night, Iranians symbolically celebrate the end of the dark and cold and get ready for the dawn of hues and life.
This year, the coronavirus outbreak has deprived the Iranian people of this traditional celebration. With around 190,000 Covid-19 deaths across the country, it is wise to avoid holding gatherings and pose a threat to many people’s lives.
Nonetheless, this is not really the first year that Iranian families have been banned from celebrating Yalda Night. Truly, given the government’s economic failures and horrible policies that have led many families below the poverty line, the majority of society is not able to hold such celebrations and gatherings even if they wanted to.
Iranian officials also prohibit citizens from holding Yalda celebrations. In addition to the government and the state-run TV Channels, government-linked celebrities, athletes, and actors warn citizens about crowded gatherings’ consequences. President Hassan Rouhani, who always lays the blame on the people, attributed Covid-19 fatalities to the people for holding Yalda ceremonies.
This is while Rouhani himself was promoting “crowded Muharram mourning ceremonies” in August. “We must hold Muharram ceremonies in all of the country’s areas,” he said at the time. Following his disastrous decision, which received severe criticism by health professionals, the coronavirus claimed many citizens’ lives, and Iran saw another Covid-19 peak.
On the other hand, several government-linked clerics advised the people to avoid holding Yalda celebrations, in honor of grieving families. However, they did not speak about grieving families and possible casualties at Muharram, when they lined their pockets with money earned by upsetting them.
A common sentiment in Iran is that the ayatollahs and their eulogists are the enemies of any kind of happiness and beauty. For 41 years, they have held the people in enormous dilemmas and attribute the country’s problems to foreigners or the people. They claim that divine rewards lie in crying and that tears would clear people’s sins.
However, contrary to outdated thoughts advertised by the ayatollahs and mouthpieces, the people of Iran see happiness and struggling against the dictators’ darkness and ruin as the primary way to improve their country. In this respect, Iranian citizens indeed celebrate this longest and darkest night by observing required protocols, in opposition to the fundamental ayatollahs, who try to spread the dust of death on society.
“Even in hopelessness, there is hope; at the end of a dark night, there is light,” Iranians recite Nezami’s poem, hoping for the victory of light over the long darkness shadowing above their country.