Zoroastrians celebrate ancient mid-winter festival
Clusters of Zoroastrians on Sunday celebrated their mid-winter festival that is passed down from generation to generation for millennia.
The festivity, which usually falls on January 30, is nowadays more popular among Iranian Zoroastrians in Tehran, Yazd, Shiraz, and Kerman. Legend says the feast is to remember the mythical discovery of fire. That’s why they set fire to a big pile of wood when the event reaches its climax. In May 2020, Jashn-e Sadeh was registered on Iran’s National Intangible Cultural Heritage list in a bid to preserve the time-honored festival. “Any measure that helps this heritage be safeguarded and preserved is supported,” part of a decree issued by the ministry of tourism and cultural heritage reads. Named after the number one hundred (Sad in Farsi), the event marks 50 days and 50 nights before Noruz (the beginning of the Iranian calendar year on March 21). The common belief emphasizes that it is a mid-winter ritual to celebrate the date when the earth starts warming up. Experts say the origins of the festival are somewhat ambiguous and there is no trace of this ceremony in the Zoroastrian holy texts. However, some historians suggest the ceremony existed even before Zoroastrianism, the world’s oldest monotheistic religion. Some believe Sadeh is a festivity to honor fire and to defeat the forces of darkness, frost, and cold. Several mythological accounts, however, connect the festival to the origins of human beings. According to Persian mythology, Houshang, the second king of the world, discovered the fire when he tried to hit a dragon with a stone. He reportedly threw a flintstone that struck against another flint stone causing a spark and generating fire. Moreover, before lighting the huge open fire, some Zoroastrian priests (Moobeds) recite verses from Avesta, the holy book of Zoroastrians. The priests are always dressed in white cotton robes, trousers, and hats as a sign of purity and neatness. Additionally, Moobeds along with Zoroastrian girls and boys, all clad in white and holding torches walk around the pile of shrubs. They light the fire as the crowd’s cheers grow louder. Noruz, the Yalda Night that takes place on the longest night of the year, and Chaharshanbeh Souri that is in praise of the spring, are other examples of ancient Iranian ceremonies.