Every year, Iranian families celebrate the most prolonged and darkest night of the year, ‘Yalda,’ as a sign of the final victory on darkness and misery. However, for long decades, the darkness and pain have shaded on their lives, leading them to ignore this traditional festival of the winter solstice.
Already, families were gathering at the elders’ house to eat, drink, and read the poetry of Hafez, the greatest Iranian poet. Fruits, nuts, sweets, pomegranates, and watermelons were significant parts of this ancient celebration. Iranians believe that the red color in these fruits symbolizes the crimson hues of dawn and the glow of life.
In recent years, aside from ignoring gatherings and celebrations, families, mainly working ones, have struggled hard to make ends meet. According to official statistics, the minimum monthly wage for workers, teachers, nurses, and many low-income strata, who shape more than 96 percent of Iran’s population, is between 28 to 40 million rials [$92.50 to $130.10].
This is while the poverty line declared by government statistic centers is at least 100 million rials [$330.25]. However, this stat has been challenged by several economists and media, saying that the poverty line has surpassed 130 million rials [$430].
These numbers show a dramatic decrease in people’s purchasing power while many families cannot afford red meat or even chicken to their children for months. Regarding Yalda night, many families cannot enjoy an appropriate dinner, let alone eat unique fruits, nuts, and sweets.
For instance, each family of four should spend $0.90 for one-kilo pomegranate, $0.65 for at least two-kilo watermelon, $0.30 for one-kilo orange, $0.60 for a one-kilo red apple, $0.20 for one-half-kilo cucumber, meaning they should spend $2.45 of their $92.50 monthly revenue for fruits alone.
On the other hand, nuts and sweets are essential for Yalda night’s ceremonies. Nuts prices lead working families to absolute collapse, which forces some people to “rent nuts and sweets.”
According to the President of the Nuts and Dried Fruits Union in Tehran, the price of one kilo of different nuts, including walnut kernels, pistachios, hazelnut kernels, almonds, cashews, green raisins, raisins, leaves, figs, dried berries, almond kernels, Kermanshahi figs, pistachio delicacies, fruit delicacies, and three pieces of basloq, is between 1.5 to 2.7 million rials [$4.95 to $8.90].
“The sale of these products has decreased by one-fourth in comparison to the past year. Therefore, to encourage people to purchase these products, we declined the profits of sellers and considered the minimum profit for the Yalda Night’s nuts this year,” said the President of the Nuts and Dried Fruits Union in Tehran in an interview with the Tejarat daily on December 21.
Furthermore, the price of one-kilo sweets is between 500,000 to 800,000 rials [$2.46 to $2.64]. The President of the Confectionery and Sweets Owners Association in Tehran announced that the prices did not change compared to last July.
In a ballpark figure, a family of four should pay around $12 of its $92.50 monthly budget to afford Yalda Night’s fruits, nuts, and sweets, meaning almost 13 percent of its revenue. At the same time, many workers, nurses, teachers did not receive their meager salaries for months.
Along with the growing inflation rate, Yalda Night is more likely a nightmare for many families in Iran rather than a national celebration. In such circumstances, reminding these ceremonies mainly adds insult to the injuries of millions of citizens across the country. It significantly increases their hatred and fury against the corrupt and bankrupt government, which has sunk them to more misery and poverty despite its all promises.
Nonetheless, citizens recite Nezami’s poem of “Even in hopelessness, there is hope; at the end of a dark night, there is light,” hoping for the crimson hues of dawn and glow over the long darkness shadowing above their country.