Yalda Night Persian Winter Solstice Celebration

December 19, 2017

This is the time of year to slow down and gather with loved ones, reflecting on the past year and renewing hope for the coming one. Ancient celebrations revolved around the winter solstice, and many of these traditions continue into modern times. For Persians Shab-e Yalda (Yalda Night) marks the time when Mithra, the angel of Light, was born. On this longest night of the year Iranian families gather together and stay up late, savoring treats like pomegranate and watermelon (symbols of life and good health), and reading the mystical poetry of Hafiz.

There are so many beautiful traditions practiced around the world this time of year that interweave and inspire one another. Ultimately these traditions all point to the same essential truths of humanity and are not limited to any particular culture or creed. Together we reflect on our relationship with the seasons and passing of time, celebrate abundance and the gift of Life, and open our hearts to wish well for ourselves and others.

This winter solstice I’ve been asked to serve as Dance Priestess at Rest in the Arms of the Mother hosted by Seven Sisters Mystery School at Rudramandir in Berkeley December 20. I do hope you join us for a special evening of nourishment. In honor of the theme of this year’s event, and in rememberence of the cosmic Womb from which we all emerged, I want to share with you the following poem by Hafiz. My deepest wish for the coming year is that we can collectively move from a place of fear and distrust to a higher vibration of love. From this vantage every human being is a reflection of God, and there is no need to fear because we are being held in the great Mystery that knows all beyond our petty differences and insecurities. Blessed be.

Fear is the cheapest room in the house.
I would like to see you living
In better conditions,

For your mother and my mother
Were friends.

I know the Innkeeper
In this part of the universe.
Get some rest tonight,
Come to my verse again tomorrow.
We’ll go speak to the Friend together.

I should not make any promises right now,
But I know if you
Somewhere in this world –
Something good will happen.

God wants to see
More love and playfulness in your eyes
For that is your greatest witness to Him.

Your soul and my soul
Once sat together in the Beloved’s womb
Playing footsie.

Your heart and my heart
Are very, very old

transl. by Daniel Ladinsky
from The Gift: Poems by Hafiz, the Great Sufi Master


Want to learn more about Shab-e-Yalda? Check out this video: