December 21, 2011 - Winter Solstice, a.k.a., Yalda

Depending on where you live in the world, the Solstice is today or tomorrow. This is the shortest day and longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, and of course the longest day and shortest night of the year in the Southern Hemisphere. The days have been getting shorter and shorter in the Northern Hemisphere ever since late June, but now they will start getting longer and longer again!

Yalda is the Persian (Iranian) Winter Solstice Celebration. It is a social occasion when family and close friends get together. Fresh fruit is traditionally served, including watermelon, pomegranate, nuts and dried fruit.

Food is commonly placed on a korsi, which is like a very short table covered by a wool blanket. People sit around the korsi and put their legs under the blanket. Inside the korsi is a heater—so this seating arrangement sounds nice and toasty-warm. Families stay up late eating, talking, reading poems aloud, and telling stories or jokes. In the past, people would decorate their houses and yards with candles, and they would give presents of dried fruits and nuts to friends and family, wrapped up in bits of parchment and tied with ribbon, like a little party favor. But apparently the customs of burning candles and giving gifts on Yalda have been dying out.

This Yalda table setting looks pretty yummy. You know what I see
along with the watermelon, pomegranate, and nuts?
I see cotton candy!

To learn more about Winter Solstice, click here

A game that comes from the Ancient Persian culture is Backgammon. Play online here. If you need help with the rules, check out Backgammon Galore.

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