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.