Nfld. & Labrador

Yalda celebrations begin for Newfoundland's Iranian community

Yalda is an annual event on the Iranian holiday calendar, falling on the day of the winter solstice.

Yalda means victory of light over darkness, according to Azadeh Haddad

Azadeh Haddad, left, and Sharzhad Mostaan came to Newfoundland from Iran to study at Memorial University. They kicked off their Yalda celebration last week with an early Yalda party. (Submitted)

On the eve of the winter solstice, members of Newfoundland and Labrador's Iranian community are celebrating as Yalda celebrations are set to begin.

Yalda is an annual celebration on the Iranian calendar that falls on the night of the winter solstice, this year landing on Dec. 22. The day marks the longest and darkest night of the year. Azadeh Haddad and Sharzhad Mostaan came to Newfoundland from Iran, and are members of the Iranian students' association at Memorial University.

"Yalda means, actually, the victory of light over the darkness," Haddad told The St. John's Morning Show. "It's the longest night of the year … and people in ancient Iran knew about this, and they didn't like dark."

Yalda celebrations include gathering with family and friends to celebrate overcoming the darkness, playing games and enjoying meals of fruits and nuts.

"Pomegranate and watermelon are like the stars of [the food]," Mostaan said.

Iranian families also gather to read poetry written by Hafez, a Persian poet born in the 1300s and regarded as one of the pinnacle writers of Persian literature. Many Iranians use his poetry book Divan-e-Hafez for fortune-telling. Mostaan says people will make a wish during Yalda, and look to the poems for a potential answer to their wishes.

"We kind of interpret that poem and it kind of can be related to many aspects of life," Mostaan said. "Most of the time they say Hafez has the answer for your wish."

Since we are away from home, MUN Iranians is kind of like a big family here.- Azadeh Haddad

Haddad hosted an early Yalda party for members of the St. John's Iranian community last week. She was surprised to see the size of the group in the city, with 140 people attending.

Iranians usually spend Yalda with family and friends. With their families back in Iran, Haddad and Mostaan agree the growing Iranian community help them feel more at home during the celebration.

"Yalda, we usually spend time with our families. Since we are away from home, MUN Iranians is kind of like a big family here," Haddad said.

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About the Author

Alex Kennedy works in St. John's for CBC Newfoundland and Labrador.

With files from The St. John's Morning Show