URMIA, 22 December (BelTA - IRNA). - Chilleh Geje Si (the Yalda Night) is an ancient festivity celebrated by the people living in Iran's West Azarbaijan province, a territory inhabited by different ethnic and religious groups.
The Yalda Night is a festival mostly celebrated in Iran and Afghanistan on the winter solstice. It takes place on the night between the last day of the ninth month (Azar) and the first day of the tenth month (Dey) of the Persian calendar.
The festival is celebrated in Iran and regions where the Iranian culture has a historical influence, including Azerbaijan, Iraqi Kurdistan, areas inhabited by ethnic Baluch people, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Family members and friends gather on the occasion to commemorate the longest and darkest night of the year.
The passage of time has failed to weaken the ancient tradition among the Iranian families as they still mark the festivity by holding parties to eat special meals and have fun until midnight.
In West Azarbaijan province, people accompany new brides prior to the night of the Yalda festival to receive gifts for them.
On Yalda Night, the family of groom sends gifts such as clothes, gold, fruit, Halva, watermelon and nuts to the house of bride.
For many years, the people of West Azarbaijan have become accustomed to preserving summer fruits such as watermelon in their rural houses to prepare them for the Yalda Night parties.
Now people in the province buy watermelon, pomegranate, raisin, apple and different nuts as well as cakes and sweets to mark the special event.
Halva, a type of confectionery originating from Persia that spread to almost all countries in the Middle East, is another special food which is eaten at the festive night in the province.
Tohid Malekzadeh, researcher and a professor at the Urmia University, told IRNA that celebrating the Yalda Night is one of the most ancient traditions in the province.
Based on ancient mythologies, the Yalda Night was considered to be the night when the sun emerges, Malekzadeh said, adding that ancient people celebrated the night as an occasion for the rebirth of brightness and hope.