Yalda night is believed to be the longest night of the year and the celebration of the beginning of winter. As always, Persian celebrations are intertwined with food.
Just like Noruz, Yalda requires a big table or a spread to house all the food and delicacies. On that spread, there is a bowl of nuts and dried fruits such as dried apricots and figs. There is also a big bowl of pomegranate seeds sitting on the table elegantly. We often sprinkle some Persian hogweed (golpar) on our pomegranate bowl for some extra aroma and zing.
Yalda is truly a celebration of togetherness. Being with grandparents, hearing their wise stories and life lessons, reading Hafez (the ancient poem book) and interpreting the poem in a simpler language assuming that the meaning of the lines is telling your fortune.
Depending on which province, city, or even village you are from, the traditions can be different. The cookies, the food and in general the eating habit of Yalda's can vary from house to house.
If you are a newly-wedded bride or a bride-to-be, the family of the groom-to-be decorates a whole banquet with sweet nuts, watermelon, pomegranate and other Yalda's goodies beautifully presented along with a gold piece or some valuable cloth for the bride.
Yalda is a celebration of light and hope and still is one of the most ancient Persian ceremonies that has been celebrated in Iran for centuries.