I heard a guest on CBC Radio this week talking about the Iranian winter solstice celebration of Yalda, meaning birth. The Yalda festival, like many other cultural festivals of light, is celebrated on December 21st, which is the longest night of the year and the beginning of winter. Iranians herald in the season of light by staying up all night, eating dried nuts, watermelon and pomegranates. The pomegranate is seen as a symbol of the cycle of life and is placed at the top of a fruit basket. It is thought that by eating summer fruits, a person can ward off illness during cold and flu season. In addition to feasting, Iranians read aloud from the ancient Persian poets, the favourite being Hafiz. In celebration of Yalda then, here is one of my favourite poems from Hafiz.
The Sun Never Says
Even after all this time
the sun never says to the earth
“You owe me.”
Look what happens with a love like that –
it lights the whole world.