Sadeh: Zoroastrians celebrate ancient winter festival

2358484TEHRAN – Like every year, nationwide assemblies of Iranian Zoroastrians held the time-honored Sadeh Festival late on Jan. 29. According to a tradition, the followers of Zoroastrian faith celebrate the passing of winter by kindling bonfires.

Narratives say the feast is to celebrate the mythical discovery of fire and that is why Zoroastrian priests set fire to a big pile of wood at the climax of the ceremony.

The origins of the festival is somewhat ambiguous and there is no trace of this ceremony in the Zoroastrian holy texts. Some historians suggest this ceremony existed even before Zoroastrianism, the world’s oldest monotheistic religion.

A number of Iranian Zoroastrians celebrate the time-honored Sadeh Festival in Tehran on January 29, 2017.

The common belief emphasizes that it is a mid-winter ritual to celebrate the date when the earth starts warming up.

The feast named after “the number one hundred” (Sad in Farsi), marks 50 days and 50 nights before Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, on March 21.

Some say Sadeh is a festivity to honor fire and to defeat the forces of darkness, frost, and cold.

A number of mythological accounts connect the festival to the origins of the human beings. According to Persian mythology, Houshang, the second king of the world, discovered fire when he tried to hit a dragon with a stone. He reportedly threw a flint stone which struck against another flint stone causing a spark and generating fire.

Prior to 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.

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.

Zoroastrians rituals are widespread in Iran. Nowruz, which celebrates the Persian New Year, Yalda festival, which takes place on the longest night of the year, and Chaharshanbeh Souri, in praise of the spring, are examples of Zoroastrian ceremonies that all Iranians celebrate publicly.


Published on Tehran Times