Celebrate Brighter Days Ahead with an Easy Yalda Board

The winter solstice is the shortest, darkest day of the year — but it's made a little lighter with this Iranian tradition.

December 20, 2021

Get the Recipe: Yalda Night Board

Get the Recipe: Yalda Night Board

Yalda night, also known as Shab-e-Chelleh, is an Iranian winter solstice celebration that occurs annually on December 21st (plus or minus a day). It’s the longest and darkest night of the year in which Iranians and residents of other countries in the region (including Azerbaijan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan) celebrate the start of longer and brighter days.

Yalda has been celebrated for centuries and people get together on this special night with their extended families to share a nice meal, read poems from Iranian poets (especially Hafez) and stay up late into the night. Since Yalda is always a winter holiday, families traditionally gathered around the korsi, which is a traditional Iranian heating system consisting of a low table with a heater underneath and a few blankets on top. People would sit around their korsi and enjoy poems, food and each other’s company.

Like Nowruz, food plays a major role in Yalda. Pomegranates and watermelon are a must at the Yalda table, as their red color represents the dawn. Other common foods to have on Yalda are beetroots, persimmons and Ajil (Iranian tail mix). These days people get more creative and make new dishes using pomegranate such as pomegranate cheese ball or even pomegranate guacamole. In the last few years, I’ve been making a convenient Yalda board for friends and family, and it’s been a big hit.

Growing up, I remember Yalda being a very important night to my family. Having a special day to look forward to in a season of cold and gloomy nights meant a lot to me in my childhood. My mom would usually make fish and herbed rice (not a traditional meal, but one that became a family tradition with time) and we would enjoy poetry after dinner alongside pomegranate, watermelon and, of course, nuts and dried fruit.

When I moved to the US, I introduced my friends and extended family to Yalda. The concept of celebrating the end of long and dark nights and welcoming longer days sounded just as charming to them as it did to me. Now my friends and extended family are looking forward to celebrating Yalda like I did growing up in Iran. This easy board is a great way to start a celebration of your own.

Yalda Night Board

Along with pomegranates and watermelon, the centerpiece of this board is the beet-feta dip — a fun way to serve the traditional beetroot.

Get the Recipe

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