By Staff Writer
The arrival of winter in Iran is traditionally marked with the ancient Yalda festival, sometimes called Shab-e Chelleh (“the night of Chelleh”), held on December 21, the winter solstice and longest night of the year. This celebration, which comes from the indigenous Iranian faith Zoroastrianism, symbolises birth, the return of the sun, and the light’s victory over darkness.
While Zoroastrians are not the dominant faith in Iran today, their traditions are widely followed by Iranians, with many gathering with friends and family to eat, read poetry, tell stories and jokes, and dance through the night.
The celebration includes, as any good celebration does, a fine dinner involving nuts, fruits, and sweetmeats served on the traditional low table, commonly called a korsi, with a heater underneath and blankets on top.
But sadly, in 2018, this celebration will be less vibrant than in previous years due to the breakdown of the Iranian economy, thanks to the mullahs’ corruption and mismanagement, which has caused mass unemployment and poverty.
One father of four from Esfahan, central Iran, said: “Yalda is just the darkest night for us now because we can buy nothing when a single pistachio is 1,000 toman (almost 8 U.S. cents, according to the global exchange rate). And this, while the Iranian nation’s wealth goes into war-mongering, in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, on ballistic missile production, and into the coffers of its corrupt officials.”
Another man in Tehran said: “We are going to hold the Yalda traditional festival in shortage and contaminated water and with sandstorm weather.”
He explained that the Iranian economy was like a diseased person and the only cure was regime change, noting the mass arrests of striking workers in Ahvaz, who were taken from their homes in nighttime raids and taken to an unknown location.
Hassan Mahmoudi, a human rights advocate specializing in economic issues relating to Iran, wrote: “This year’s Yalda festival for the Iranian people, with 40% under the severe poverty line, holds no meaning unless it signifies that they are indeed currently suffering the longest and darkest period of their lives and that better times are on their way.”
In addition to the poor economic situation, the Iranian mullahs have also increased repression of the Yald festival in recent years, on the pretext that it is anti-Islamic, including raiding private parties. Just a few years ago, the chief of the Cultural Heritage, Handcrafts and Tourism Organization banned Yalda tours.