Thursday, December 15, 2005

Happy Holidays in Iran: Shab-e Yalda

An interesting feature by Cooking Light featured other holidays held around this time of year. I was surprised to see many that I hadn't heard of so am going to share them with y'all here.
In Iran, the winter solstice, which falls on December 21, is hailed with Shab-e Yalda -- the birthday of the sun. It's a celebration of the triumph of light over dark, good over evil. It is thought that on the longest night with evil at its zenith, light needs help to overcome darkness, says Najmieh Batmanglij author of New Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies. Therefore, Shab-e Yalda is traditionally celebrated with the family building a bonfire outside and gathering around a brazier inside until sunrise. They entertain one another with dancing, poetry, and storytelling. Food also plays an integral part.

In Iranian culture, certain nutritional properties of foods are considered hot and others are considered cold (regardless of temperature or level of spice), much like Chinese yin or yang. Balance between the two is important. Summer foods are preserved throughout the year for the Shab-e Yalda feast, where they mingle with the foods of winter "to symbolize the balance of seasons," Batmanglij explains. Saffron and carrots, for example, are warm foods and are served during Shab-e Yalda to overcome the cold of winter.
Cooking Light, Dec. 2005

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