i've been reading a book by roger houston these days, called saved by beauty. although written by an american with a totally different perspective than mine, it has totally brought me back to my home country. there are some days in the year that i become very nostalgic and miss the good old days in my childhood in iran. one of which is yalda, december 21th, is the longest night of the year. we call this night yalda which refers to rebirth of the sun. it's based on the concept of light and good defeats the darkness which is represented by the longest night of the year. this night is in persian month of Day, which was also the name of the pre-zoroastrian creator god (deity). later he becamse known as the god of creation and light, from which we have the english word day (the period of light in 24 hours.)
the ceremony of celebrating this long night in iran consists of family and friends gathering together, sit around the fireplace and reading poetry, telling strories, feasting on nuts and wintery fruits such as watermelon, oranges, and pomogranates. reading poetry from our renowned persian poet hafez has become the central part of yalda tradition. usually we sit together and each of us chooses a ghazal randomly and we each read one around the circle. this can take till very late hours of the night if we are celebrating it with a big group of people. here a couple of words from hafez:
life's a riddle - give it up.
there's no answer to it but this cup ...
hafez is known as a sufi but not the kind that goes to monastery or wander around as a beggar. he was actually against those practices and hypocrisy of those sufis who set themselves apart from society and the reality of life as you can see in his poems:
now that i look back at my wasted life
it is better to have fallen down drunk in the tavern corner
prodence and proper thoughts lie far from the dervish way
better to fill your breast with fire and your eye with tears.