The gatherings begin with a fine dinner, usually highlighting popular regional dishes. In Tabriz, in the Azerbaijan province of northwestern Iran, people enjoy kofteh, large meatballs of minced lamb, herbs, and nuts and stuffed with a plum in the center. In Khorasan, they eat dolmeh, stuffed grape leaves. Gilaki people, who live near the Caspian Sea, eat sturgeon. And in the past, when Iran didn’t suffer from perpetual drought, the people of Isfahan in the center of Iran would mix fresh snow with grape or date syrup; a sort of traditional snow cone.
Ancient Zoroastrians in Iran used red to represent the color of dawn and light in general. For that reason, many of the edibles served on Yalda are red. Iranians everywhere serve a variety of fruits, including pomegranate—the crown jewel of fruits native to Iran—watermelon, and persimmon. Other common foods are steamed beets and mixed dried fruit and nuts, including figs, white mulberries, raisins, dates, hazelnuts, and pistachios, and special sweets.
Thank you for the info, I like all of the foods you describe and I’m fascinated with tradition. I had a pomegranate for breakfast the other day … I need to eat them more often it really did look and taste like I was eating the crown jewel of fruits, pardon the lack of presentation.
Wow…interesting. My barber is “Persian” as he refers to himself, I have become very friendly with him over the years and just saw him last week for my Holiday haircut! I would have brought him some fruits for his celebration! I hope you and yours had a nice holiday! (assuming you celebrate since you posted this!)
They wouldn’t really have any need to go out and gather snow. It’s worth noting here that Persian homes always had a kind of year-round refrigerated storage available - remember that the word “sherbet” is Persian. They worked like a sort of massive icebox, but more sophisticated, with the building/basement insulated with many different layers of sand, straw, etc.
I grew up in an area with a lot of Persian immigrants who talked about using them, and a very good friend who lived in Iran for a few years in the 70’s and said they were still in common use at least as recently as that. Persians served iced desserts all year round.
I believe they’re still in use to some extent - it seems like such a great idea we should make more use of it here.
Farhang Foundation is proud to present the 8th Annual “Virtual” Celebration of SHAB-E YALDA. Join us as we welcome the arrival of the winter solstice, an ancient Persian tradition dating back thousands of years. The evening program will feature Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh storytelling by the world’s first female Iranian epic storyteller GORDAFARID, as well as HAFEZ readings and storytelling by Haleh Mahboubi Gabbay, and a very special musical performance by renowned musician Shahin Shahida.
On Yalda, which falls on Dec. 21 this year, it is customary to take refuge from the darkness and remain indoors, and to welcome the new light by staying up as long as possible. It is believed that, with the sun’s triumphant rise, our days will shine brighter and longer with hope and good will.
Foods for Yalda include, clockwise from top: pomegranates; hogweed to sprinkle on pomegranate seeds; baslogh (soft and chewy rosewater-infused walnut sweets); ajeel (mixed nuts, seeds and dried fruit); rice cookies and watermelon.Credit…Max Whittaker for The New York Times
“Historically, the pomegranate — anar — holds special significance in Persian culture,” said Nader Mehravari, the food research fellow at San Francisco State University’s Center for Iranian Diaspora Studies. “Pomegranates originated in the region of modern-day Iran. From a religious aspect, the pomegranate is considered a heavenly fruit and perhaps the original forbidden fruit. It is also a sign of fertility, light and goodness, which is why it is so auspicious on Yalda night as a symbolic opposing force of darkness.”