Inspired by the Persian festival of Yalda Night (20th dec) I initiated a personal response to the theme of Yalda.
Early Christians linked this very ancient Persian celebration to Mithra, goddess of light, and to the birth anniversary of Prophet Jesus (PBUH). In birth, sun and Prophet Jesus (PBUH) are close to each other, says one Iranian tale of Yalda.
Today, Christmas is celebrated slightly off from Yalda Night. However, Christmas and Yalda are both celebrated in a similar fashion by staying up all night and celebrating it with family and friends, and eating special foods.
Iranians adopted their annual renewal festival from the Babylonians and incorporated it into the rituals of their Zoroastrian religion. The last day of the Persian month Azar is the longest night of the year, when the forces of evil are assumed to be at the peak of their strength.
The next day, which is the first day of the month ‘Dey’ known as ‘khorram rooz’ or ‘khore rooz’ (the day of the sun), belongs to Ahura Mazda, the lord of wisdom. Since days become longer and nights shorter, this day marks the victory of the sun over darkness. Fires would be burnt all night to ensure the defeat of the forces of evil. It was also assumed that Ahura Mazda would grant people’s wishes, especially those desiring an offspring if all rites are performed on this occasion.
One of the themes of the festival was the temporary subversion of order. Masters and servants reversed roles. The king dressed in white would change place with ordinary people. A mock king was crowned and masquerades spilled into the streets. As the old year died, rules of ordinary living were relaxed.
Its origin dates back to the Babylonian New Year celebration. They believed that the first creation was order, which was born out of chaos. To appreciate and celebrate the first creation, they held a festival and all roles were reversed. Disorder and chaos ruled for a day and eventually order was restored at the end of the festival.