Congratulations on the occasion of the second Yalda of the 15th Century, a living heritage of humanity, in the Iranian plateau and its surrounding history and civilisation, which is adorned with a collection of diverse practices, knowledge, skills, and social and cultural events.
Yalda Night (Shab-e Yalda) symbolizes a glorious farewell to accompany the passage through darkness to a joyous, love-filled and hope-driven welcoming of light, a sign of warmth and continuity in life. A life that is colourful and meaningful. A life that is adorned with co-existence and empathy as desired by humankind’s philosophy of creation, where humanity is considered a divine gift. This precious tradition of Yalda is passed on to future generations as an invaluable keepsake.
Yalda resembles a joyous ending and a glorious start for the intergenerational transfer of an element born from human creativity, shaped at the time of the resurrection of nature in a country that boasts culture and civilisation. Yalda crosses borders and travels nations. In its voyage in lands of different belief systems from sun-worshippers to divine faiths, Yalda has come to mingle with the lives of Muslims, to meet societies’ social and living needs and respond to questions on identities. Coming to reside in the land of Persia, it became an identity-building element for the Iranians and came to be known as the Iranian Chelleh in the past and as Yalda, a global living heritage, today.
Yalda is among the most wonderous Iranian cultural elements. It emanates from bridging the knowledge gap between astrology and agriculture. Nature is generative and open handed. It embraces humankind and life like a caring mother and feeds and nurtures them and teaches humankind how to survive Mother Earth’s hibernation by wisdom and await the passage through darkness to light, leaning on knowledge, experience and belief.
Sweet is the waiting for the transfer from the longest darkness of night to the glory of the birth of the glowing sun, whose light and warmth will grow by the day. All this requires togetherness and empathy. Empathy is the pinnacle of togetherness and brings joy to hearts and souls. However, what makes this element stand out among others is not only its peace-building and human nature as the element comprises all manifestations of Intangible Cultural Heritage. It is a multi-domain element. Any element that falls within one of the five domains of ICH can be nominated for inscription. The Iranian-Islamic Yalda comprises and promotes all five domains of ICH: social practices, rituals and festive events (Yalda celebration and the table set for it that comprises many dishes); oral traditions and expressions (story-telling and reciting Hafiz); performing arts (Naqqali and reciting the Shahnameh); knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe (calendar and the knowledge of seasons and their changing patterns, preparation of season-specific foods, and mode(s) of storing nature’s blessings from previous seasons, and…); and traditional craftsmanship (Termeh tablecloths, korsi (traditional warmers), Jajim (traditional rug), …).
Of the 46 elements inscribed on the representative list in 2022, only 6 are multi-domain. Yalda is among those 6 elements.
This family-oriented, cultural element that is implemented with the presence of women, men, children and youth, manifests gender equality in the performance of the element, hence its intergenerational transfer. Yalda is performed equally in urban and rural areas just like the Nowruz element. Yalda is honoured by different religions and faiths and safeguarded by all as a family-oriented element.
The significance of Yalda is not limited to its characteristic of defying darkness and embracing the light. The importance of Yalda is in its contribution to social life and dynamism. It raises communities’ awareness about their identity and brings them a sense of belonging, thus contributing to their viability. The creators of Yalda are people who responded to cultural, social and human needs. The formation of the element is the result of an extended knowledge of geography and astrology and the knowledge of living peacefully with other cultures. The element in itself has led to the formation of other domains of ICH.
May Iranian and Islamic living heritage retain their viability in the quest for global peace.
Although a traditional and age-old element, Yalda, an element that contributes to solidarity and peace and is based on empathy, is presented to the world young and eternal in its second celebration in the 15th century. Yalda is a source of pride for the Iranian-Islamic culture that is peace-seeking and contributes to sustainable development.