Nowruz is the traditional Persian festival of spring which starts at the exact moment of the vernal equinox, commencing the start of the spring. The name comes from Avestan meaning “new day/daylight”. Nowruz is celebrated March 20/21 each year, at the time the sun enters Aries and Spring begins.

Nowruz has been celebrated for at least 3,000 years and is deeply rooted in the rituals and traditions of the Zoroastrian religion.

Nowruz or Norooz meaning ‘The New Day’ marks the beginning of the Iranian New Year. It is the first day of spring or Equinox and marks the beginning of the year in the Persian calendar. On this day families gather together to observe the rituals and festivities of this day. It is celebrated by Iranians across the world.

Tabletop with Haft-seen elements for Nowruz: sonbol (hyacinth), sabzeh (grass), seeb (apple), somaq (sumac powder), seer (garlic), serkeh (vinegar), goldfishes, flowers hyacinths, coins, burning candles, painted eggs and mirror

ChaharShanbe Suri

The festivities begin with the celebration of the night of ChaharShanbe Suri. It is celebrated on the last Wednesday of the old year to get rid of all the bad luck and misfortunes of last year. People generally light small bonfires and jump over the flames shouting ‘Zardie man az to, sorkhie to az man’ meaning ‘May my sickly pallor be yours and your red glow be mine’. And Haji Firooz, who on the last Tuesday of the year, were sent by the white-dressed priests (Moghs) to spread the news about the arrival of the New Day.

Haji Firuz

The traditional herald of the Nowruz season is called Haji Pirooz, or Haji Firuz. He symbolizes the rebirth of the Sumerian god of sacrifice, Domuzi, who was killed at the end of each year and reborn at the beginning of the New Year. Wearing black make up and a red costume, Haji Pirooz sings and dances through the streets with tambourines and trumpets spreading good cheer and the news of the coming New Year.

Haji Firouz represents the red-dressed” fire keepers” of the Zoroastrians. The Fire keeper’s second duty was to call on the people to burn their old items in the Fire, and to renew their life and regaining health by obtaining the solved energy of the Fire. The dark color of the Fire keeper’s face is allegedly caused by the heat of the holy fire. Fire keepers use of rather unfamiliar expressions combined with their humorous nature, brought laughter to people’s faces.

“Arbabe khodam samalon-alaykom, Arbabe khodam sareto bala kon, Arbabe khodam boz-boze ghandi, Arbabe khodam chera nemikhandi”

My master, hello
My master, bring your head up
My master, look at me
My master, do us a favor
My own master, the billy goat
My master, why don’t you laugh

The Celebration of Nowruz

On the first day of Nowruz, family members gather around the table, with the Haft Seen on the table or set next to it and await the exact moment of the arrival of the spring. At that time gifts are exchanged. Later in the day, on the very first day, the first house visits are paid to the most senior family members. Typically, the younger ones visit the elders first, and the elders return their visit later.

The table is set up with Quran, the Holy Book; a bowl of gold fish; mirror; candle; flowers; painted eggs and seven traditional Persian dishes each starting with the letter ‘s’. This table is kept in the home for thirteen days after the start of the holiday. The seven traditional Nowruz foods are:

  1. Seeb (apple), representing beauty
  2. Seer (garlic), representing good health
  3. Serkeh (vinegar), representing patience
  4. Sonbol (hyacinth), representing spring
  5. Samanu (sweet pudding), representing fertility
  6. Sabzeh (sprouts), representing rebirth
  7. Sekeh (coins), representing prosperity

Recipes for Nowruz

A traditional Nowruz dinner is called Sabzi Polo Mahi which is a rice dish with whitefish and green herbs like parsley, coriander, chives and fenugreek. At the end of thirteen days, Sizdeh Bedar is celebrated which means ‘getting rid of the thirteenth’. The green sprouts grown during the holiday are thrown into rivers or lakes to symbolize the plants return to nature. This marks the end of the festivities.



Nowruz is a time for spring cleaning, buying new clothes, visiting friends and relatives. On the 13th day of the New Year, the celebrations finally end. During the Nowruz holidays people are expected to pay house visits to one another (mostly limited to families, friends and neighbors) in the form of short house visits and the other side will also pay you a visit during the holidays before the 13th day of the spring.

Sizdah Bedar (Nature Day)

The thirteenth day of the New Year festival is called Sizdah Bedar (meaning “thirteen outdoors”). It often falls on or very close to April Fool’s Day, as it is celebrated in some countries. People go out in the nature in groups and spend all day outdoors in the nature in form of family picnics. It is a day of festivity in the nature, where children play and music and dancing is abundant. On this day, people throw their sabzeh away in the nature as a symbolic act of making the nature greener, and to dispose of the bad luck that the sprouts are said to have been collecting from the household.

The thirteenth day celebrations, Seezdah Bedar, stem from the belief of the ancient Persians that the twelve constellations in the Zodiac controlled the months of the year, and each ruled the earth for a thousand years. At the end of which, the sky and the earth collapsed in chaos.


Nowruz Registration on UNESCO

Nowruz was inscribed on the UNESCO list by the 11th Intergovernmental Committee for Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from November 28 to December 2. UNESCO recognized Nowruz as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity on September 30, 2009, based on an initiative undertaken by Iran, India, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan and Turkey. In 2014, five other countries: Iraq, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan asked to join the project which led to a review of the case and resubmission of the proposal to UNESCO.

persian-new-year-nowruz -1

Iranians celebrate Chaharshanbe Suri. It is a fire jumping festival celebrated by Iranians around the world. On the eve of the last Wednesday of the Persian solar year, known as Chaharshanbe Suri or the Persian Festival of Fire, special customs and rituals take place in which everyone particularly children eagerly participate. Where young and old gather around and jump over fires that stay burning all night. These bonfires symbolize kindness, friendship, and light.

Chaharshanbe Suri

The event takes place on the eve of the last Wednesday before Nowruz. Loosely translated as Wednesday Light, from the word “sur” which means celebrations/red in Persian, or more plausibly, consider sur to be a variant of Sorkh (red) and take it to refer either to the fire itself or to the ruddiness (Sorkhi), meaning good health or ripeness, supposedly obtained by jumping over it, is an ancient Persian fire festivity from the Zoroastrian era which marks the euphoria of nature on the eve of spring.
Fire, which has always been a sacred item for ancient Persians and Zoroastrians, is supposed to give people its warmth and energy and take away their sickness, paleness and problems in return by the coming of the New Year.

Chaharshanbe Suri (Red Wednesday in English), in many ways is the equivalent of Halloween or Guy Fawkes night. The celebration usually starts in the evening, with people making bonfires in the streets and jumping over them singing “zardi-ye man az toh, sorkhi-ye toh az man”. The literal translation is, my yellow is yours, your red is mine. This is a purification rite. Loosely translated, this means you want the fire to take your pallor, sickness, and problems and in turn give you redness, warmth, and energy.

Undoubtedly Chaharshanbe Suri is one of the most popular ways to welcome Nowruz. A specially made mixtures of nuts and dried fruit, called “Ajil”, is a commonly nibbled on throughout the evening. This tasty treat, believed to make one kinder and compassionate, is prepared using salted hazelnuts, pistachios, almonds, prunes, apricots, and raisins.

Innocent Siavash in Shahnameh

Some people believe that Chaharshanbe Suri associate with the story of Siavash, and this is a mystery. In this day Siavash, safely, passed through the fire with his horse because he was innocent. Ferdowsi tells the story of Siavash’s passing from fire in his popular book (The Epic of Kings).

Siavash, Persian Prince, loses his mother at age seven. The king got married with another wife, Soodabe, a beautiful woman and capricious,who then loves Siavash. She had wanted to have relationship with Siavash, (Siavash was refusing to do so) and she accused him. Siavash told his father that he was innocent and, to prove it, was ready to cross the tunnel and the corridor of fire.

“If I’m a sinner, I will burn in the fire, and if I’m clean, I will cross the fire,” he said.

Siavash, safely, passed through the fire with his horse because he was innocent and proved his chastity. This event had happend on Tuesday, and from Wednesday to Friday the National Day was announced, and throughout the vast country of Iran, under the command of Kikavos, the sponging and joy were established. Since then, reminding of the proudly passing the fire, Persians celebrate the last Wednesday of each year with jumping over the fire.

Sepandar Mazgan is an ancient Iranian/Persian festival with Zoroastrian roots, the day for celebrating love, friendship and earth in the ancient Iranian culture. Dating back to the Achaemenid Empire, the first Persian Empire. This festival is widely known as the Iranian Day of Love, although it is celebrated in its neighboring countries as well as Afghanistan and Tajikistan. According to Iranian tradition, the day of Sepandar Mazgan was held in the Great Persian Empire in the 20th century BC .

This day is registered on Bahman 29th in the Iranian Calendar, only 3 days After Valentine. The original Esfandegan (Sepandar Mazgan) was on the 5th day of Esfand equals to 23rd of February but some scholars believe it is on 29th of Bahaman or 17th of February. So why two dates for a single day? This 6 day gap refers to calculations of the modern Iranian Solar year which is 365.25 days and the months are not fixed 30 days. So this scholars decided to make corrections in the calendar and preponed Esfandegan to 6 days earlier. These corrections have caused bewilderment among people who like to retrieve this old tradition.


History of Sepandar Mazgan

Persians have a rich culture with many great feasts based on natural occasions that have been mixed up with happiness &  joy. In the feast of  Sepandar Mazgan , Earth was worshiped and women venerated. On this day, Women and girls sat on the throne and men and boys had to obey them and bring them presents and gifts. In this way, men were reminded to acclaim and respect women. Also Sepandarmaz is Earth Guardian Angel. It is the symbol of humbleness, it means modest toward the entire creation. These are the qualities attributed to Earth that spreads beneath our feet, thus the symbol of modesty and love.

As human beings, there are creatures that we find unpleasant and repulsive, but Earth is not like us. She embraces all creatures the same and loves them the same; like a mother who loves all children alike, even when they are ugly. In our ancient culture, mother is symbolized by  Sepandarmaz  or earth. Have you ever seen a Love more sacred than Mother’s Love to children?


Iran’s Famous Love Stories

Leyli & Majnun

Layla and Majnun is a classic story of love most notably expressed by the great poets Nizami Ganjavi and Muhammad Fuzuli. It has been presented in many Middle Eastern and sub-continental cultures; Muslim, Sufi, Hindu, and secular. Layla and Qays, are in love from childhood but are not allowed to unite. Qays (called Majnun, which means “possessed”) is perceived to be mad in his obsession with Layla. Layla is married off to another and Majnun becomes a hermit, devoting himself to writing verses about his profound love of Layla. Although they attempt to meet, they die without ever realizing a relationship. (Read More)

Shirin & Farhad

These two illustrations feature scenes from the story of Shirin  and Farhad. Their tragic love story is well known today, from Turkey to India and is especially popular in Iran. The encounter between Shirin and Farhad is part of a longer and much more tragic love story of Shirin and Khusrow. Farhad, was a humble engineer, artist and craftsmen famed for his skill at carving rock, who served Shirin, the Queen of Armenia. Farhad fell in love with Shirin.


In order to dissuade Farhad from his love for Shirin, Khusrow set him the impossible task of carving a tunnel through Mount Behistun. Before starting this arduous task, Farhad carved the likeness of Shirin into the rock face. Farhad’s story does not end well. He is tricked by Khusrow into believing that Shirin has died, after which he kills himself using the tools that he had used to carve her very image into the rock.

Shahnameh Ferdowsi: The world’s longest epic poem written by a single poet

The Shahnameh, Book of Kings, is an epic composed by the Iranian poet Hakim Abul-Qasim Mansur (later known as Ferdowsi Tusi), and completed around 1010 CE. Ferdowsi means ‘from paradise’, and is derived from the name Ferdous. Tusi means ‘from Tus’. In the poet’s case, the name Ferdowsi Tusi became a name and a title: The Tusi Poet from Paradise.

The epic chronicles the legends and histories of Iranian (Aryan) kings from primordial times to the Arab conquest of Iran in the 7th century CE, in three successive stages: the mythical, the heroic or legendary, and the historic.
Ferdowsi began the composition of the Shahnameh’s approximately 100,000 lines as 50,000* couplets /distiches (bayts) each consisting of two hemistichs (misra), 62 stories and 990 chapters, a work several times the length of Homer’s Iliad, in 977 CE, when eastern Iran was under Samanid rule. The Samanids had Tajik-Aryan affiliation and were sympathetic to preserving Aryan heritage.


It took Ferdowsi thirty-three years to complete his epic, by which time the rule of eastern Iran had passed to the Turkoman Ghaznavids. The Shahnameh Ferdowsi was written in classical Persian when the language was emerging from its Middle Persian Pahlavi roots, and at a time when Arabic was the favoured language of literature. As such, Ferdowsi is seen as a national Iranian hero who re-ignited pride in Iranian culture and literature, and who established the Persian language as a language of beauty and sophistication.

Ferdowsi wrote: “the Persian language is revived by this work.”

The earliest and perhaps most reliable account of Ferdowsi’s life comes from Nezami-ye Aruzi, a 12th-century poet who visited Tus in 1116 or 1117 to collect information about Ferdowsi’s life. According to Nezami-ye Aruzi, Ferdowsi Tusi was born into a family of landowners near the village of Tus in the Khorasan province of north-eastern Iran. Ferdowsi and his family were called Dehqan, also spelt Dehgan or Dehgān. Dehqan /Dehgan is now thought to mean landed, village settlers, urban and even farmer. However, Dehgan is also a name for the Parsiban, a group of Khorasani with Tajik roots.


Ferdowsi married at the age of 28 and eight years after his marriage – in order to provide a dowry for his daughter – Ferdowsi started writing the Shahnameh, a project on which he spent some thirty-three years of his life.

Shahnama: 1000 Years of the Persian Book of Kings

Ferdowsi’s text is centered on the reigns of fifty monarchs (including three women) and can be divided into a legendary and a quasi-historical section. It begins with the reign of Kayumars at the dawn of time and concludes with the last Sasanian king, Yazdigird (reigned 632–651), who was defeated by the Arabs. These fifty “chronicles” provide a framework for the dramatic deeds and heroic actions of a range of other personages who are often aided by—or at battle with—a host of fantastic creatures and treacherous villains. The poem draws on a wealth of sources, including local and dynastic histories, the Avesta (the sacred text of the Zoroastrian religion of ancient Iran), and myths and legends preserved in oral tradition.


“Our lives pass from us like the wind, and why
Should wise men grieve to know that they must die?
The Judas blossom fades, the lovely face
Of light is dimmed, and darkness takes its place.”

-Shahnameh Ferdowsi

Over the centuries, foreign conquerors and local rulers alike were drawn to the Shahnaman (Shahnameh Ferdowsi)  for its emphasis on justice, legitimacy, and especially the concept of divine glory. Known as Khavarnah in the Avesta and as farr in modern Persian, divine glory was considered the most important attribute of kingship, for it enabled rulers to govern and command obedience. Not surprisingly, commissioning lavishly illustrated copies of the Shahnama became almost a royal duty. By representing the kings and heroes of the epic according to the style of their own times, members of the ruling elite were able to cast themselves as the legitimate heirs of Iran’s monarchical tradition, which according to Ferdowsi dates back to the beginning of time.


While Ferdowsi was composing the Shahnameh, Khorasan came under the rule of Sultan Mahmoud, a Turkoman Sunni Muslim and consolidator of the Ghaznavid dynasty. Ferdowsi sought the patronage of the sultan and wrote verses in his praise. The sultan, on the advice from his ministers, gave Ferdowsi an amount far smaller than Ferdowsi had requested and one that Ferdowsi considered insulting. He had a falling out with the sultan and fled to Mazandaran seeking the protection and patronage of the court of the Sepahbad Shahreyar, who, it is said, had lineage from rulers during the Zoroastrian-Sassanian era. In Mazandaran, Ferdowsi wrote a hundred satirical verses about Sultan Mahmoud, verses purchased by his new patron and then expunged from the Shahnameh’s manuscript (to keep the peace perhaps). Nevertheless, the verses survived.


Ferdowsi returned to Tus to spend the closing years of his life forlorn. Notwithstanding the lack of royal patronage, he died proud and confident his work would make him immortal.

Language of Shahnameh Ferdowsi

Ferdowsi wrote the Shahnameh in Persian at a time when modern Persian was emerging from middle Persian Pahlavi admixed with a number of Arabic words. In his writing, Ferdowsi used authentic Persian while minimizing the use of Arabic words. In doing so, he established classical Persian as the language of great beauty and sophistication, a language that would supplant Arabic as the language of court literature in all Islamic regimes in the Indo-Iranian region.

“I turn to right and left, in all the earth
I see no signs of justice, sense or worth:
A man does evil deeds, and all his days
Are filled with luck and universal praise;
Another’s good in all he does – he dies
A wretched, broken man whom all despise.”

– Shahnameh Ferdowsi


If the Shahnameh transliterations this author possesses are correct, Ferdowsi even used the term Parsi and not Farsi to name the Persian language, Farsi being the Arabic version of Parsi.

Oral Tradition

The public for their part got to hear verses and legends in Chaikhanas or tea houses and at other gatherings frequented by travelling bards and storytellers – the famed Naqqal. A few erudite individuals would also recite the verses in private gatherings eliciting the approving bah-bah. Shahnameh Ferdowsi was and is also read aloud in the gymnasiums of the Mithraeum-like Zurkhanes – where pahlavans , the strong-men of Iran, train with their maces and clubs. During their meditative exercises that have spiritual overtones, a musician plays a drum while reciting Shahnameh verses that recount the heroic deeds of Rustam and other champions of Iran. The epic itself sits in a place of special reverence within the Zurkhane.


English Translations of Shahnameh Ferdowsi

Shahnameh: The Epic of the Persian Kings is the illustrated edition of the classic work “Shahnameh Ferdowsi”. This new prose translation of the national epic is illuminated with over 500 pages of illustrations and had been published in April 2013. The lush and intricate illustrations in this edition have been created by award-winning graphic artist and filmmaker Hamid Rahmanian, incorporating images from the pictorial tradition of the Persianate world from the fourteenth to the nineteenth centuries. The new translation and adaptation by Ahmad Sadri, retells the mythological and epic stories of the original poem in prose format. This Shahnameh is an extraordinary literary and artistic accomplishment.


I’ve reached the end of this great history
And all the land will talk of me:
I shall not die, these seeds I’ve sown will save
My name and reputation from the grave,
And men of sense and wisdom will proclaim
When I have gone, my praises and my fame

– Shahnameh Ferdowsi

Leyli and Majnun: The Persian Immortal Love Story

“Leyli and Majnun” is an immortal love story sometimes compared to “Romeo and Juliet” though it predates Shakespeare in oral tradition by more than 1,000 years. Today, it is still one of the most popular epics of the Middle East and Central Asia among Arabs, Turks, Persians, Afghans, Tajiks, Kurds, Indians, Pakistanis, and, of course Azerbaijanis. The most popular version of this love story “Leyli and Majnun” was penned by Nizami Ganjavi (1141-1209), who lived and died in Ganja, an ancient city in Azerbaijan where his shrine stands today. He wrote in Persian as was the literary custom of the day.


The plot of the romance is simple. Qays falls in love with Leyli at school. He soon began to write beautiful love poems about Layla and he would read them out loud on street corners to anybody who would care to listen. Majnun (Qays) becomes obsessed with her, singing of his love for her in public. Such passionate displays of love and devotion and the obsession grows to the point that he sees and evaluates everything in terms of Leyli; hence his sobriquet “the possessed” (Majnun). Contemplating the image of Leyli increases his love so that he cannot eat or sleep. His only activity is thinking of Leyli and composing love songs for her.
One day, Majnun found the courage to ask Layla’s father for his daughter’s hand in marriage, but her father refused the request.  Such a marriage, the father reasoned, would only cause a scandal.  It would not be proper for his daughter to marry a person whom everybody called a madman.  Instead, Layla was promised to another – an older man from a neighboring village.

The Man Who Loved Too Much

Majnun was overcome with grief and abandoned his home and family and disappeared into the wilderness where he lived a miserable life of solitude among the wild animals.  It was in this wilderness that Majnun spent his days composing poems to his beloved. Layla was forced to marry this other man, although she did not love him because her heart still belonged to Majnun.  But even though Layla did not love her husband, she was a loyal daughter and so remained a faithful wife. Meanwhile, Leyli is betrothed against her will but she guards her virginity by resisting her husband’s advances. While married, she does not share her bed with her husband and even secret arranges meetings with Majnun, and when they meet, they have no physical contact, rather they recite poetry to each other from a distance. The news of this marriage was devastating to Majnun who continued to live a life of solitude, refusing to return home to his mother and father in the city.

Love is known to be an overwhelming, all-consuming, intense passion. But just how intense can love be? No one knows the answer, and examples of such a love are rare. But whenever one talks about the depth of love, the intensity of passion, two names almost immediately come to mind – Laila and Majnun.

Majnun’s mother and father missed their son terribly and longed every day for his safe return.  They would leave food for him at the bottom of the garden in the hopes that one day he would come back to them out of the desert.  But Majnun remained in the wilderness, writing his poetry in solitude, never speaking to a single soul. Majnun spent all of his time alone, surrounded only by the animals of the wilderness that would gather around him and protect him during the long desert nights.  He was often seen by travelers who would pass him on their way towards the city.  The travelers said that Majnun spent his days reciting poetry to himself and writing in the sand with a long stick; they said that he truly was driven to madness by a broken heart.

Many years later, Majnun’s father and mother both passed away.  Knowing of his devotion to his parents, Layla was determined to send Majnun word of their passing.  Eventually she found an old man who claimed to have seen Majnun in the desert.  After much begging and pleading the old man agreed to pass on a message to Majnun the next time he set off on his travels. One day, the old man did indeed cross paths with Majnun in the desert; there he solemnly delivered the news concerning the death of Majnun’s parents and was forced to witness what a terrible blow this was to the young poet.


Overcome with regret and loss, Majnun retreated inside of himself entirely and vowed to live in the desert until his own death. Some years later, Layla’s husband died.  The young woman hoped that finally she would be with her one true love; that finally she and Majnun would be together forever.  But sadly, this was not to be.  Tradition demanded that Layla remain in her home alone to grieve for her dead husband for two whole years without seeing another soul.  The thought of not being with Majnun for two more years was more than Layla could bear.  Leyli and Majnun had been separated for a lifetime and two more years of solitude, two more years without seeing her beloved, was enough to cause the young woman to give up on life.  Layla died of a broken heart, alone in her home without ever seeing Majnun again.

Leyli dies out of grief and is buried in her bridal dress. Hearing this news, Majnun rushes to her grave and there he wept and wept until he too surrendered to the impossible grief. They are buried side by side and their graves become a site of pilgrimage. In the coda, someone dreams that Leyli and Majnun are united in Paradise, living as a king and queen.


Nizami’s Voice – Leyli and Majnun

The following are some quotes taken from Nizami’s immortal poem “Leyli and Majnun”. This prose version has been adapted by Colin Turner and published by Blake in London, 1970 (ISBN 1-85782-1610).

The future is veiled from our eyes. The threads of each man’s fate extend well beyond the boundaries of the visible world. Where they lead, we cannot see. Who can say that today’s key will not be tomorrow’s lock, or today’s lock not tomorrow’s key? (page 3)

Dearest heart, if I had not given my soul to you, it would have been better to give it up for good, to lose it forever. I am burning in love’s fire; I am drowning in the tears of my sorrow. . . I am the moth that flies through the night to flutter around the candle flame. O invisible candle of my soul, do not torture me as I encircle you! You have bewitched me, you have robbed me of my sleep, my reason, my very being. (15)

Time passes, but true love remains. The life of this world is, for the most part, nothing but a succession of illusions and deceptions. But true love is real, and the flames which fuel it burn forever, without beginning or end. (31)


Every breeze that blows             brings your scent to me;
Every bird that sings                   calls out your name to me;
Every dream that appears         brings your face to me;
Every glance at your face           has left its trace with me.
I am yours, I am yours,               whether near or far;
Your grief is mine, all mine,       wherever you are.

Arash the Archer is a heroic archer of the Persian mythology. As a warrior of King Manuchehr (the legendary king of Ancient Persia, who reigned over a period of 120 years, and the descendant of Fereydun, the Hero King, who did battle against Zahhak, the incarnation of the evil dragon, who was referred to as the last king of the Age of Gods in West Asia, and as the strongest archer, he brought an end to the war between Persia and Turan that had spanned for 60 years. The brave warrior of salvation, who bestowed peace and tranquility to the people of both countries. He accomplished the great feat of saving thousands of people during the battle. And being celebrated by poets as Ferdowsi, the name Arash is one of the most popular in the Persian speaking world.


When the bloody and long-lasting war between Iran and Turan came to an end, the rulers of both countries decided to make peace and to fix the boundary between their kingdoms. The defeated Iran was ordered to shoot an arrow towards Turan. Where the arrow landed was to mark the border between the two countries.While they were dealing this agreement, Sepandarmaz, the earth’s angel, appeared and ordered to bring a bow and an arrow. Arash was the most powerful and professional Iranian man in shooting an arrow, and due to his unique power, he could fire the arrow furthest away. The earth’s angel told Arash to take the arrow and shoot it. Arash the Archer knew that the width of chaste pure land of Iran, would depend on the power of his arrow and he had to put all his power in that. He got ready, took off his shirt and showed his body to the king and the army and said: ” Look, I’m healthy and there’s no flaw in me, but I know that the moment I release the arrow, all my power will leave my body and it will go with the arrow.


An Iranian super hero, Arash the Archer, agreed to shoot the arrow from the peak of the Damavand (The highest mountain in Iran in Alborz string mountains). One morning of Tir (July), Arash climbed Mount Damavand and faced the direction of Turan lands, and with all his strength pulled his bow. Hormoz, the God, ordered to the angel of wind to take care of the arrow and preserve it from harm. The arrow flew the whole morning and fell at noon – 2250 kilometers on the bank of the Oxus River in what is now Central Asia. The river remained the boundary between Iran and Turan for centuries. When Arash let his bow go, he fell to the ground on Mount Damavand and passed away.

Arash’s body was not found. There are still stories from travelers who were lost on the mountain. They say that they heard Arash’s voice which helped them find their way and saved their lives.


Every year, Iranian people celebrated the memorial to that day. It is said that the “Tirgan” festival has been born since then.

Arash the Archer in recent literature:
*SIYAVASH KASRAEE, the Iranian poet has a poem by name, Arash the Archer
*TOURAN SHAHRIYARI, the Iranian poetess has a poem by name, ARASH and TIRGAN

Here some parts of Arash poem By Siavash Kasrai the Iranian Contemporary poet.

Arash e Kamangir (Arash the Archer)

Told or untold here are so many points
The open sky
The rosy sun
The gardens of flowers
The planes all wide and open
The rise of flower from under the snow
The soft dance of the fish in the crystal glass
The smell of rainy soil in the highland
The sleeping of the wheat farms in the moonlight
To come, to go, to run
To love
To feel sorrow
Or to dance when people are delighted
To work, to act
Yea, Yea, Life is beautiful
Life is an everlasting fire-temple


If you lighten it, you’ll see the flames dancing in every border
And if not, it will be quiet, and that will be our fault
The Iranian army was so worried
Tow by tow were mumbling
Children standing on the roofs
Girls sitting in the alleys
Mothers standing beside the doors sadly
People were like a wild sea
It was windy, angry
And a man like a pearl was born out of the sea
It’s me, Arash
He began like this to talk to the enemy
It’s me Arash, the free army man
I’m ready now
Don’t ask about my ancestor
I’m the child of working and trying
Running like a shooting-star from the sky
Like a morning ready to meet
The earth was quiet, the sky was quiet
As if all the world was listening to Arash
Little by little sun appeared from behind the mountains
Thousands of golden spears were thrown to the sky’s eyes


Arash took a look at the city, calmly
Children on the roofs
Girls sitting in the alleys
Mothers sad, sitting beside the doors
The men were in the way
A song with no words, with painful sorrow
What song can be composed? For the firm sold steps
For the steps which know their destination well
His enemies opened the road in a mocking silence
Children called him from above the roofs
Mothers prayed for him
Girls holding the necklaces in hands, pushing hard
Accompanied him with love and power
Arash, but he was still silent
He climbed up Alborz Mountain
And tear drops would follow him
At night
Those who were looking for Arash on the mountains
They were back
Without any sign of Arash’s body
With a bow and no arrow
Yea, yea…. Arash put his life and soul in the arrow
He did the job of thousands and thousands of arrows

“Turn yourself not away from three best things: Good Thought, Good Word, and Good Deed.” 

Zoroaster (active 1st millennium B.C.) was a prophet of ancient Iran and the founder of the Iranian national religion. Zoroastrianism is ranked with Judaism, Christianity, and Islam among the higher religions originating in the Middle East.

The dates given for Zoroaster by ancient and modern writers differ considerably. The more sober authors have placed him between 1000 and 600 B.C. The latter date conforms to the tradition of the Zoroastrians themselves, who regard Zoroaster as having revealed his religion 258 years before Alexander the Great conquered Iran in 331 B.C. The main sources for the life and career of Zoroaster are the Avesta, the sacred book of the Zoroastrians, the oldest and most reliable source; later Zoroastrian literature, among which Denkart, an encyclopedic work in Middle Persian, stands out; and non-Zoroastrian works, which include Persian, Arabic, Armenian, and classical histories.


Zoroaster was known among the classic writers chiefly as the initiator of the Magian belief and was regarded as a great sage. The Magians were a priestly class of ancient Iran and were the repository of Persian religious lore and learning. Zoroaster is first mentioned by a Lydian historian of the 5th century B.C. Plato mentions Zoroaster in Alcibiadesin connection with Magian teachings, and Plutarch gives a summary of Zoroaster’s religious doctrine and cosmology.

The Gathas

Only the earliest part of the Avesta was composed by the prophet himself. This portion is called Gathas (Hymns). The other parts, which include hymns, prayers, litanies, and religious law, were written over a period of perhaps several centuries. The dialect of the Gathas is slightly different from the rest of the Avesta and somewhat more archaic. The language of the Avesta has long been dead. Ambiguities in a number of Avestan passages have given rise to differences of interpretation and have made some aspects of the prophet’s life the subject of heated controversy.

Zoroastrian priests perform a fire ceremony and prayers to honor the dead at the Zoroastrian Association of Metropolitan Chicago. Adherents to the ancient Persian religion are debating whether to accept converts or to recognize the children of mixed marriages as a way to boost the waning congregation numbers.

Recent work by Martin Schwartz and Almut Hintze tends to discount this theory, as the linguists show that the Gathas are not the work of an academic writing in a dead language; they show all the signs of poetry composed and recited in an oral tradition, similar to the heroic poetry of Homer or the Rig-Vedas. These studies would confirm the earlier date for Zarathushtra.

Again, no one knows how Zarathushtra died, allegedly at age 77. Many legends, and Zoroastrian tradition, say that he was killed, while praying in the sanctuary, by a foreign enemy of the king. But there is no holiday commemorating the martyrdom of the Prophet, as there would be in other religions (Christianity, for instance) and other Zoroastrian traditions, and scholars, say that Zarathushtra died peacefully.

“Doing good to others is not a duty. It is a joy, for it increases your own health and happiness.” 



His birthday is celebrated on March 21, as part of the Persian New Year Festival.

Ancient alien theorists believe Zarathustra was the son of an alien god named who went by the name Ahura Mazda in this scenario. Scholars believe Zoroaster was a priest and a prophet. Linked to the Magi, he was considered a magician. His spiritual influences have always affected human thought and reasoning; his goal, to show humans their connection to one source of light and consciousness.

Ahura Mazda (also known as Ohrmazd, Ahuramazda, Hormazd, and Aramazd) is the Avestan name for a divinity of the Old Iranian religion who was proclaimed the uncreated God by Zoroaster, the founder of Zoroastrianism. Ahura Mazda is described as the highest deity of worship in Zoroastrianism, along with being the first and most frequently invoked deity in the Yasna. Ahura Mazda is the creator and upholder of Asha (truth). Ahura Mazda is an omniscient, but not an omnipotent God, however Ahura Mazda would eventually destroy Evil. Ahura Mazda’s counterpart is Angra Mainyu, the “Evil spirit” and the creator of Evil who will be destroyed before Frashokereti (the destruction of Evil).

Ahura Mazda first appeared in the Achaemenid period under Darius I’s Behistun Inscription. Until Artaxerxes II, Ahura Mazda was worshiped and invoked alone. With Artaxerxes II, Ahura Mazda was invoked in a triad, with Mithra and Apam Napat. In the Achaemenid period, there are no representations of Ahura Mazda other than the custom for every emperor to have an empty chariot drawn by white horses, to invite Ahura Mazda to accompany the Persian army on battles. Images of Ahura Mazda began in the Parthian period, but were stopped and replaced with stone carved figures in the Sassanid period.

Zoroaster spoke of duality and ceasing balance at the end of time. He also spoke of a rival to Ahura Mazda, who was similarly uncreated. This rival was the Evil spirit, Angra Mainyu. One of Ahura Mazda’s objectives is to destroy Angra Mainyu and create a universe which is completely good. To achieve such a universe, Ahura Mazda initially offered Angra Mainyu peace, which Angra Mainyu refused. Ahura Mazda then set out to establish a spiritual army. One of his first acts was the creation of the seven Amesha Spentas, who were spirits to monitor and protect each of the seven creations

If both of these entities, or gods, were aliens, the result, as depicted in ancient writings tells the sorry of great battles in the sky by something that resembled space ships and is possibly linked to the creation of the ancient underground city Derinkuyu.


Early Years – Family

The name Zarathustra is a Bahuvrihi compound in the Avestan language, of Zarata- “feeble, old” and Usatra “camel”, translating to “having old camels, the one who owns old camels”. The first part of the name was formerly commonly translated as “yellow” or “golden”, from the Avestan “Zaray”, giving the meaning “having yellow camels”. The later Zoroastrians, perhaps embarrassed by their prophet’s primitive-sounding name, said that the name meant “Golden Light,” deriving their meaning from the word ‘Zara’ and the word ‘Ushers’, light or dawn. There is no doubt about Zarathushtra’s clan name, which is Spitama – perhaps meaning “white.” Zarathushtra’s father was named Pouruchaspa (many horses) and his mother was named Dughdova (milkmaid).


The Gathas contain allusions to personal events, such as Zoroaster’s triumph over obstacles imposed by competing priests and the ruling class. They also indicate he had difficulty spreading his teachings, and was even treated with ill-will in his mother’s hometown. They also describe familial events such as the marriage of his daughter, at which Zoroaster presided. In the texts of the Younger Avesta (composed many centuries after the Gathas), Zoroaster is depicted wrestling with the Daevas and is tempted by Angra Mainyu to renounce his faith (Yasht 17.19; Vendidad 19).

The Spend Nask, the 13th section of the Avesta, is said to have a description of the prophet’s life. However, this text has been lost over the centuries, and it survives only as a summary in the seventh book of the 9th century Denkard. Other 9th- to 12th-century stories of Zoroaster, as in the Shahnameh, are also assumed to be based on earlier texts, but must be considered as primarily a collection of legends. The historical Zoroaster, however, eludes categorization as a legendary character.


Zoroaster was born into the priestly family of the Spitamids and his ancestor Spitama is mentioned several times in the Gathas. His father’s name was Pourusaspa, his mother’s was Dughdova. With his wife, Huvovi, Zoroaster had three sons, Isat Vastar, Uruvat-Nara and Hvare Cira and three daughters, Freni, Pourucista and Triti. His wife, children and a cousin named Maidhyoimangha, were his first converts after his illumination from Ahura Mazda at age 30. According to Yasnas 5 & 105, Zoroaster prayed to Anahita for the conversion of King Vistaspa, who appears in the Gathas as a historical personage.

Zoroaster’s Career

A brief sketch of the prophet’s career, however, may be gleaned from the Gathas. In these metrical preachings Zoroaster appears as a human and plausible figure, devoid of many of the mythical and legendary details found in later literature. According to the Gathas, Zarathushtra (as Zoroaster is called in the Avesta), son of Pourushaspa and from the house of Spitama, is a preacher inspired by and in communion with his Lord, Ahura Mazda. He is distressed at the spread of wickedness and the neglect of truth. He tries to awaken his people to the importance of righteousness and warns them against following false leaders practicing animal sacrifice, mistreating the cattle, and permitting the drinking of Homa (an intoxicating drink) in the ritual. His exhortations, however, are not heeded. He meets with the indifference of his people and the opposition of the communities’ religious leaders. He puts his trust in his Lord, with whom he holds a number of discourses. He seeks the active help and guidance of Ahura Mazda and eventually succeeds in converting King Vishtaspa, who then accords him protection and support.


In later Zoroastrian literature, Zoroaster’s life becomes wrapped in marvels and miraculous events. In these sources he is presented as a native of Media in western Iran. Through Doghdova, his mother, he inherits Farnah, the Divine Glory, without which no Persian king or prophet could succeed. According to the seventh book of the Denkart, which gives an account of the miraculous birth and life of the prophet, Ahura Mazda himself intervenes in the selection of the essence of Zoroaster’s body and soul from celestial spheres.

Sorcerers and demons, perceiving Zoroaster as a threat to their interests, make several attempts on his life, but he is protected by Ahura Mazda and his aides, the Holy Immortals, who reveal to him the “Good Religion.” Harassed by his opponents, he flees to eastern Iran, where he converts the Kianid king, Vishtaspa, to his religion. He marries the daughter of Vishtaspa’s good vizier, Frashaoshtra, and gives his own daughter in marriage to Jamaspa, another good vizier of the King. A series of battles against the neighboring infidel tribes follows King Vishtaspa’s conversion, and Zoroaster is killed at an altar during one of these battles.

“With an open mind, seek and listen to all the highest ideals. Consider the most enlightened thoughts. Then choose your path, person by person, each for oneself.” 


Time and Place of Zoroaster

Agathius (6th century A.D.) was already facing the difficulty of determining the time of Zoroaster when he observed that the Persians said that Zoroaster lived under Hystaspes (Vishtaspa), but that it was not clear whether they meant Darius’s father or another Hystaspes. This question has continued into our own day. Whereas Samuel Nyberg placed Zoroaster in a remote period and among primitive people, Ernst Herzfeld (1947) insisted that he was related to the house of the Median kings and that his protector, Vishtaspa, was none other than Darius’s father. However, one must follow the convincing argument of W. B. Henning (1951), who upholds the authenticity of the Zoroastrian tradition and places Zoroaster in the court of a king of eastern Iran whose domain was eventually absorbed into the Achaemenid empire. This makes Zoroaster a contemporary of Buddha and Confucius.

As to the native land of the prophet, all the evidence in the Avesta, including geographical names, points to eastern Iran as the scene of Zoroaster’s activities. It is most probable that his alleged Median origin was a fabrication of the Magi.

Zoroaster’s Message

The Zoroastrian religion has gone through different phases, attracting in the course of time many elements from different sources. Among these sources are the pre-Zoroastrian religion of the Iranians and the ritualistic cult of the Magi, but the central element remains the message of Zoroaster himself. It was this message which shaped the new religion and afforded the Iranians spiritual comfort and cohesion for many centuries.


The most characteristic aspect of Zoroaster’s faith is belief in dualism. He conceived of two primeval powers active in the universe, Good and Evil. Our world is the scene of their conflict and admixture. The outcome of this conflict, upon which depends the destiny of man, is decided as much by man’s choice as by any other factor. The choice is between siding with Ahura Mazda and following the path of truth, or uniting with Angra Mainyu (Ahriman) and following the way of falsehood. In the fateful struggle between Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu, it is man and his deeds which hold the balance. It is through the good thoughts, good words, and good deeds of pious men and women that the forces of Good eventually triumph. There will be a day of reckoning when those who have resisted the temptations of Angra Mainyu and have followed the dictates of the “Good Religion” will be blessed.

In assigning this choice to man, Zoroaster raises him to an exalted rank in the scheme of creation. Man’s noble position and his positive contribution to the triumph of righteousness is the second important characteristic of Zoroaster’s message. His religion is not affected by a notion of original sin or by ascetic tendencies. The raising of children and the planting of trees are stressed as meritorious deeds. Zoroaster’s kingdom of God is not necessarily a vision to be realized only in the hereafter.

Zoroaster, who seems to have reacted against a form of monotheism, reveals a striking and original way of thinking. From the Gathas we gain the impression of an impassioned preacher who strives for the material and spiritual well-being of his people. The success of his faith bears witness to the pertinence of his message for his people.

“One good deed is worth a thousand prayers.” 

As Christians around the world celebrate Christmas, the holiday season is also observed in Iran. Christianity has a long history in Iran, dating back to the early years of the faith. It has been practiced in the country longer than the state religion, Islam.

According to the country’s statistics, today there are at least 600 churches for 300,000 – 370,000 Christians in Iran, most of whom are Armenians who are followers of the Oriental Orthodox branch of Christianity.

A Walk-Through Tehran at Christmas

Iran’s Christian Armenian minority has been storming the gift shops in Tehran, buying them out of all their ornaments, Santa figures and pine trees to hang in their stores and homes.

Christmas trees decorated with red, green and gold gift boxes placed behind shop windows or at the entrances of different shopping malls and hotels can be seen, especially in the Christian neighborhoods of Tehran.

Decorated trees, along with Nativity scenes of the Virgin Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, can also be seen in shops along Mirza Shirazi Avenue and Ostaad Nejatollahi (Villa Avenue) and its surrounding neighborhoods in central Tehran, where many Iranian Christians reside.

Some Iranian Christians celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25 and New Years’ on Jan. 1, while Armenians celebrate Christmas at the same time as the Epiphany on Jan. 6.

Despite being a minority, Iran’s Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians are recognized as established religious minorities and are represented in parliament, and also enjoy freedom to practice their religions and perform their religious rituals.

During Christmas, joy and merriment reigns supreme for the Christian population all over the country. Christmas in Iran is popularly known by the name of “Little Feast”. Although Christmas has an official recognition in Iran, it is not a national holiday. The festival is preceded by “Little Fast”, or 25 days of fasting from animal products.

The ritual is observed, mainly by the Assyrians, from December 1 and needs one to abstain from meat, eggs and even dairy products such as milk and cheese. For devout Christians, it is a time of peace and meditation. The fasting is intended to purify the mind, body and soul to welcome Christ.

Most of the community attend church services during the time. While the “Little Fast” is observed from December 1 – December 25, the “Big Fast” occurs during Lent, the six weeks preceding Easter. It is not until the “Little Fast” ends that the Christmas feast begins.

The Christmas Eve is the last day of the “Little Fast” and even before dawn on Christmas Day, the people attend Mass to receive Communion. It is only after they receive this Communion that they are permitted to break fast.

Thereupon, preparations for the great Christmas feast begin. Plenty of meat is cooked up for the celebrations. The main dish for Christmas Day is a kind of chicken barley stew, popularly known as “Harissa”, which is cooked in large quantities and is stored and eaten for several days. For Iranian boys and girls, Christmas week is the time for happiness. It is the occasion when they can indulge in joyous celebrations and gorge on delicious recipes once again.

In recent years, municipal authorities have also put up banners celebrating the birth of Jesus on many main streets and at the St. Sarkis Armenian Church on Villa Avenue, where a service is held every year.

Unlike other countries in the region where public celebration of Christmas is limited to hotels frequented by foreigners, there is no such restriction in Tehran. The sale of Christmas ornaments, which during the first years of the Islamic Revolution was limited to Christian districts, can now be seen around town.

In fact, festive Christmas decoration and celebration take place throughout the country, specifically in major cities such as Esfahan, Shiraz, Tabriz and even religious cities such as Mashhad.


Merry Christmas to all Christians in Iran and anywhere in the world!

– Welcometoiran Team

Yalda Night: The Longest And Darkest Night Of The Year

These days, Christian countries around the world are getting ready for Christmas. All streets, stores and houses are decorated with lights for this festive season. You hear Christmas songs everywhere and some people even wear Christmas jumpers. For Iranians, all around the world, it’s different, because they are getting ready for one of their most important nights of the year: Yalda night or Shab e Chelleh. The majority of Iranians don’t celebrate Christmas, of course we do have Armenian communities and other Christian communities who do celebrate Christmas in Iran. I think Yalda is much more highlighted than Christmas in the streets of Iran. Let me explain to you what Yalda night is.

What is Yalda night?

Iranians around the world celebrate Yalda, which is one of the most ancient Persian festivals.

On Yalda festival, Iranians celebrate the arrival of winter, the renewal of the sun and the victory of light over darkness.


Considered the longest night of the year, Yalda eve is the night when ancient Iranians celebrated the birth of Mithra, the goddess of light.

Yalda means birth. Yalda night is a beautiful ancient Iranian celebration. Iranians are celebrating the longest and darkest night of the year or winter solstice. This night is on 20 to 21 December according to the Georgian calendar. I should add here that we in Iran use a different calendar, the Iranian calendar. According to this calendar, Yalda night is the last evening of the autumn day or “the night opening the initial forty-day period of the three-month winter”.

Let me go back to the reasons:

Why we celebrate Yalda Night?

Ancient Persians believed that evil forces were dominant on the longest night of the year and that the next day belonged to the Lord of Wisdom, Ahura Mazda.

In addition to Iran, Central Asian countries such as Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and some Caucasian states such as Azerbaijan and Armenia share the same tradition and celebrate Yalda Night annually at this time of the year.


How does Iranian celebrate Yalda night?

On this night, family members get together (most often in the house of the eldest member) and stay awake all night long. Dried nuts, watermelon and pomegranate are served, as supplications to God for increasing his bounties, as well classic poetry and old mythologies are read aloud.

Iranians believe those who begin winter by eating summer fruits would not fall ill during the cold season. Therefore, eating watermelons is one of the most important traditions in this night.

Pomegranates, placed on top of a fruit basket, are reminders of the cycle of life–the rebirth and revival of generations. The purple outer covering of a pomegranate symbolizes birth or dawn, and their bright red seeds the glow of life.

As days start lengthening, ancient Iranians believe that at the end of the first night of winter which coincides with December 21 this year, darkness is defeated by light and therefore they must celebrate the whole night. As the 13th-century Iranian poet Sa’di writes in his book Boustan: “The true morning will not come until the Yalda Night is gone.”


Early Christians linked this very ancient Persian celebration to Mithra, goddess of light, and to the birth anniversary of Prophet Jesus (PBUH). In birth, sun and Prophet Jesus (PBUH) are close to each other, says one Iranian tale of Yalda.

Today, Christmas is celebrated slightly off from Yalda Night. However, Christmas and Yalda are both celebrated in a similar fashion by staying up all night and celebrating it with family and friends, and eating special foods.

In most ancient cultures, including Persia, the start of the solar year has been marked with the celebration of the victory of light over darkness, and the renewal of the sun. For example, 4,000 years ago, Egyptians celebrated the rebirth of the sun at this time of the year. Their festival lasted for 12 days to reflect the 12 divisions in their solar calendar.

The ancient Roman festivals of Saturnalia (god of agriculture, Saturn) and Sol Invicta (sun god) are amongst the best-known celebrations in the western world.

Iranians adopted their annual renewal festival from the Babylonians and incorporated it into the rituals of their Zoroastrian religion. The last day of the Persian month Azar is the longest night of the year, when the forces of evil are assumed to be at the peak of their strength.

The next day, which is the first day of the month ‘Dey’ known as ‘khorram rooz’ or ‘khore rooz’ (the day of the sun), belongs to Ahura Mazda, the lord of wisdom. Since days become longer and nights shorter, this day marks the victory of the sun over darkness. The occasion was celebrated as the festival of ‘Deygan’, which is dedicated to Ahura Mazda on the first day of ‘Dey’.


Fires would be burnt all night to ensure the defeat of the forces of evil. There would be feasts, acts of charity and prayers performed to ensure the total victory of sun–essential for the protection of winter crops. There would be prayers to Mithra (Mehr) and feasts in his honor, since Mithra is the Eyzad responsible for protecting “the light of the early morning”, known as ‘Havangah’. It was also assumed that Ahura Mazda would grant people’s wishes, especially those desiring an offspring if all rites are performed on this occasion.

One of the themes of the festival was the temporary subversion of order. Masters and servants reversed roles. The king dressed in white would change place with ordinary people. A mock king was crowned and masquerades spilled into the streets. As the old year died, rules of ordinary living were relaxed. This tradition persisted till the Sassanian rule and is mentioned by Birouni, the eminent scientist and traveler, and others in their recordings of pre-Islamic rituals and festivals.

Its origin dates back to the Babylonian New Year celebration. They believed that the first creation was order, which was born out of chaos. To appreciate and celebrate the first creation, they held a festival and all roles were reversed. Disorder and chaos ruled for a day and eventually order was restored at the end of the festival.

The Iranian Jews, who are amongst the oldest inhabitants of the country, in addition to Shab-e Chelleh, also celebrate the festival of Illanout (tree festival) at around the same time.

The celebration of Illanout is very similar to Shab-e Chelleh’s. Candles are lit and a variety of dried and fresh winter fruits are eaten. Special meals are prepared and prayers are performed. There are also festivals in parts of southern Russia, which are identical to Shab-e Chelleh with local variations. Sweet bread is baked in the shape of humans and animals. Bonfires are lit, around which people danced and made movements resembling crop harvesting.

Comparisons and detailed studies of all these celebrations will shed more light on the forgotten aspects of this wonderful and ancient festival, where merriment was the main theme of the festival.


One of the other traditions of Yalda night, which has been added in recent centuries, is the recitation of the classic poetry of Hafez, the Iranian poet of 14th century AD. Each member of the family makes a wish and randomly opens the book and asks the eldest member of the family to read it aloud. What is expressed in that poem is believed to be the interpretation of the wish and whether and how it will come true. This is called Faal-e Hafez (Hafez Omen).

Coinciding with the beginning of the winter, Yalda is an occasion to celebrate the end of the crop season. It is today an event to thank the Lord for all blessings and to pray for prosperity in the next year.

In the Shahnameh a poetic opus written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi around 1000 AD, Zahhak is an evil king who conquers Iran and who has serpents growing out of his shoulders.

A long time ago in between the two great rivers Euphrates and Tigris there was a land called Mesopotamia. Deep inside the castle lived a cruel Assyrian king called Zahhak. His armies terrorised all the people of the land.

All had been well before Zahhak’s rule in Mesopotamia.

It was during the reign of a king called Jemshid that things started to go wrong. He thought himself above the sun gods and began to lose favour with his people.

A spirit called Ahriman the Evil, seized the chance to take control. He chose Zahhak to take over the throne, who then killed Jemshid and cut him in two.


The Emergence of Snakes

The evil spirit, disguised as a cook, fed Zahhak with blood and the flesh of animals and one day Ahriman merely asked to kiss Zahhak on his two shoulders, which he agreed. Then Ahriman touched Zahhak’s shoulders with his lips and vanished.

At once, two black snakes grew out of Zahhak’s shoulders. They could not be surgically removed, for as soon as one snake-head had been cut off, another took its place.From a psychological viewpoint, the snakes on Zahhak’s shoulders could represent his lust for killing or a form of sadism which, if left unsatisfied, would torment Zahhak.


Ahriman now appeared to Zahhak in the form of a skilled physician. He counseled Zahhak that the only remedy was to let the snakes remain on his shoulders, and sate their hunger by supplying them with human brains for food every day otherwise the snakes will feed on his own.

Zahtak”s rule lasts for a thousand years during which two young men are sacrificed daily to provide their brains to the serpents to alleviate the pain that Zahhak felt.

Since the snake king began his rule over the kingdom, the sun refused to shine. Now all was dark, cold and bleak. The people all over the land were very sad.


Rise of Kaveh the Blacksmith

Kaveh (also called Kaveh Ahangar or Kaveh the Blacksmith) was a simple blacksmith. He and his wife were weakened by grief and hated Zahhak as he had already taken 16 of their 17 children.

One day the order came from the castle that Kaveh’s last daughter was to be killed and her brain was to be brought to the castle gate the very next day.

Zahhak’s minions had murdered 16 of his 17 sons so that Zahhak might feed his snakes’ lust for human brains.

Kaveh lay all night on the roof of his house, under the bright stars and rays of the shining full moon thinking how to save his last daughter from Zahhak’s snakes.


Instead of sacrificing his own daughter, Kaveh had sacrificed a sheep and had put the sheep’s brain into the wooden bucket. And no one had noticed.
Soon all the townspeople heard of this. So when Zahhak demanded from them a child sacrifice, they all did the same. Like this, many hundreds of children were saved.

Then all the saved children went, under darkness, to the very furthest and highest mountains where no one would find them.

Here, high up in the safety of the Zagros Mountains, the children grew in freedom. They learnt how to survive on their own. They learnt how to ride wild horses, how to hunt, fish, sing and dance.

From Kaveh they learnt how to fight. One day soon they would return to their homeland and save their people from the tyrant king. Time went by and Kaveh’s army was ready to begin their march on the castle. On the way they passed through villages and hamlets. The village dogs barked and the people came out of their houses to cheer them and give them bread, water, yoghurt and olives.

The Destiny of the Demon Snake

As Kaveh and the children drew near Zahhak’s castle both men and women left their fields to join them. By the time they were approaching the castle Kaveh’s army had grown too many thousands.

They paused outside the castle and turned to Kaveh.

Kaveh stood on a rock. He wore his blacksmith’s leather apron and clenched his hammer in his hand. He turned and faced the castle and raised his hammer towards the castle gates.

The large crowd surged forwards and smashed down the castle gates that were shaped like winged warriors and quickly overpowered Zahhak’s men.


Kaveh raced straight to Zahhak’s chambers, down the winding stone stairs, and with his blacksmiths hammer killed the evil snake king and cut off his head. The two serpents withered.

He then climbed to the top of the mountain above the castle and lit a large bonfire to tell all the people of Mesopotamia that they were free.

Soon, hundreds of fires all over the land were lit to spread the message and the flames leapt high into the night sky, lighting it up and cleansing the air of the smell of Zahhak and his evil deeds. The darkness was gone.

The fires burned higher and higher and the people sang and danced around in circles holding hands with their shoulders bobbing up and down in rhythm with the flute and drum. The women in bright coloured sequined dresses sang love songs and the men replied as they all moved around the flames as one.

Some of the youngsters hovered over the flute, drunk with the sound of the music, their arms outstretched like eagles soaring the skies.
Now they were free.

Memoriam of Kaveh Uprising

To this day, on the same Spring day every year, March 21st, (which is also Spring Equinox) Kurdish, Persian, Afghan and other people of the Middle East dance and leap through fires to remember Kaveh and how he freed his people from tyranny and oppression and to celebrate the coming of the New Year.

This day is called Newroz or New Day. It is one of the few ‘peoples celebrations’ that has survived and predates all the major religious festivals.
Although celebrated by others, it is especially important for the Kurds as it is also the start of the Kurdish calendar and celebrates the Kurds own long struggle for freedom.

In the Kurdish myth, Zahhak”s evil reign causes spring to no longer come to Kurdistan.

Kaveh is the most famous of Persian mythological characters known for resisting the despotic foreign rule in Iran. He rebels against the foreign ruler of Persia and leads the people to overthrow the tyrant king.

By the late Sassanid era (224–651), Kaveh’s Banner had emerged as the standard of the Sassanid dynasty. The tomb of Kaveh is believed to be situated on a hill near a village named Mashhad-e Kaveh in Isfahan province.