What is Shab-e Yalda?

Celebrated on the winter solstice, the festival of Shab-e Yalda is a celebration of hope, resilience, and new beginnings. Believed by some scholars to have roots in ancient Zoroastrian traditions, this night mirrors the strong sense of community found in the cultures of Central Asia, where this festival has long been observed. Taking place on the longest night of the year, typically around December 21st or 22nd, this tradition brings families and friends together to read poetry, share symbolic fruits and nuts, and exchange stories and songs, marking the end of long, difficult winter nights and heralding brighter days. 

What Does Shab-e Yalda mean?

Shab translates to night, with Yalda meaning rebirth. So, Shab-e Yalda literally means the ‘Night of Rebirth’, referring to the rebirth of the sun that will bring longer days after the longest night of the year.  

How is Shab-e Yalda celebrated?

Whilst every families’ celebrations differ, pomegranate and watermelon are traditionally served, their deep, crimson reds representing the forthcoming sunrise, and the light and positivity it will bring. Verses from Hafez, the renowned Persian poet from the 1300s, are recited as personalised fortunes, inspiring imagination and fostering optimism for a better future. Friends and family cosy up under the sandali, a low set table with a heater underneath and blankets on top where everyone tucks their legs under to warm up. The celebration lasts long into the night, representing the unwavering determination to welcome in the new sun, and with it, hope for a better tomorrow. 

One Afghanaid team member shared what this festival means for them:

“Shab-e Yalda is one of the many traditions my family has carried with them since leaving Afghanistan. I am grateful for the ways it connects me to my culture and teaches me the importance of community and hope”

Hope and Resilience at Afghanaid

This winter, families in Afghanistan continue to face unimaginable hardship. Despite this, people across the region will come together this winter solstice, to honour the importance of community, the crucial role of hope, and the strength of resilience.

For the past forty years, Afghanaid has depended on these values as they help us catalyse the positive transformations that Shab-e Yalda commemorates. Now more than ever, it is crucial to engage with the values Shab-e Yalda honours. At Afghanaid, we know that the most effective way to support families experiencing challenges is by investing into their communities, using this hope to realise positive change, and working with them to build a brighter tomorrow. 

Set up a regular gift today and every month, you can help us turn this hope into change, enabling our teams to reach remote villages, respond to emergencies and natural disasters, and work with communities to make them healthier, stronger, and more inclusive. 

Do Something Amazing Today: Join Our Monthly Giving Movement