The night of the winter solstice, called šab-e čella or šab-e yaldaa is a magical night. It is the longest night of the year (December 21 in the Northern hemisphere), accompanied by a special festival of light to mark the invincibility of goodness and a luminous, very special splendor.
Much has been said and written about the supposed birth of Mithrá on this night. Mithrá is the light of understanding, power to connect, meeting in mind and spirit. Like all other qualities of GD, Mithrá is apaöúrvím “without a beginning.” There is not a single reference to the birth of Mithrá in the entire Avesta, Zoroastrian Literature or Mythology.
What is celebrated on the night of winter solstice is the invincibility of goodness and light; what is cherished is the eternal wisdom that the darkest night will always beget light and the triumph of the spirit .
Throughout the world, angels, saints of light are celebrated during the Winter Solstice nigt. Lucia, saint of Light, (Avestan raöchá) is honored from Italy to Sweden. Sarasvati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge and Inspiration, is also celebrated during the winter solstice night. In ancient Europe, the Norse goddess Frigga sat at her spinning wheel at this night, weaving the fates of the mortals, the festivity was called Yule, from the Norse word Jul, meaning wheel.
The decision to establish December 25 as the “official” date of Christ’s birth was made by Pope Julius I in the fourth century AD, hoping to replace the pagan celebration with the Christian one. The Solstice is a time of plenty. At the Yaldaa night, the extended family comes together and enjoys a fine dinner. Many varieties of fruits, nuts especially walnuts, and sweets (almond paste cookies with saffron) especially prepared or kept for this night are served. In the ancient, pre Islamic days, food and treats were also hung on the branches for the animals to eat.
In some areas, forty varieties of edibles are served during the ceremony of the yaldaa night Another practice involves a platter containing seven kinds of fruits/nuts and a variety of gifts for the young and old.
The most typical fruit of the night is watermelon especially kept from summer for this ceremony. It is believed that consuming watermelons on the night of solstice will ensure the health and well-being of the individual during the upcoming months by protect¬ing the individual from falling victim to diseases.
The victory of light over darkness is symbolized by the use of fire, both in candles and the burning of a hearth fire log and keeping the ashes for cleansing. The hearth fires of are quenched and then rekindled.
Another favorite and prevalent pastime of the yaldaa night is divination. For Winter Solstice is a time for visions. A time for mortals to create their own visions, making real their aspirations and dreams. ardeshir