As family and friends gather together to celebrate the popular Persian festival of Yalda Night (or Shab-e Yalda) on 21 December, Christians in Iran have a great opportunity to share their faith. They would appreciate prayer for their boldness, for anointed words, and for their protection.
Yalda Night is a holiday celebrated by all Iranians, regardless of ethnicity or religious background. Celebrated on the longest night of the year, it’s an ancient Persian festival hailing the triumph of light over darkness as daylight hours begin to lengthen. Traditionally, friends and family stay up all night together, listening to music, eating nuts and fruits that have symbolic meaning, sharing stories, and reading traditional Iranian poetry, especially by the much loved poet Hafiz. In a form of fortune telling, many Iranians also pick out Hafiz verses at random for each other, believing these verses become prophetic for the recipient.
Christians have an opportunity to be distinct in the way they observe Yalda Night, through choosing to share stories from the Bible, through avoiding engaging in fortune telling, and through directing the conversations toward Christ. Indeed Jesus is highly acclaimed in many of Hafiz’s poems, so his poetry can serve as a helpful launchpad for talking about the true identity of Jesus. Sharing Christ could be risky, but many want to share nevertheless, so that their families have an opportunity to respond to the Gospel. And wonderfully, it is quite common to hear of whole Iranian families coming to know the Lord through the witness of one member.
Iranians treasure Yalda, and the idea of light triumphing over darkness. But it is the prayer of many Iranian Christians that countless more would come to know Christ, the true Light of the world who overcame the darkness.