Thousands of Iranians gathered at dusk against a snowy mountain backdrop to light giant bonfires in an ancient mid-winter festival dating back to Iran’s pre-Islamic past that is drawing new interest from Muslims.
Saturday’s celebration was the first in which the dwindling remnants of Iran’s once plentiful Zoroastrian religious minority were joined by thousands of Muslims, reflecting a growing interest in the strict Islamic society for the country’s ancient traditions.
At the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, Iranians buy fruit, nuts and other goodies to mark the feast of Chelleh, also known as Yalda, an ancient tradition when families get together and stay up late, swapping stories and munching on snacks.
Both were discouraged by authorities in the early years after the Islamic Revolution by the conservative clerical regime, but without success.
Islamists and their ilk are regularly termed “conservative,” but they’re actually often enemies of the old and traditional. Consider the proactive destruction of Ottoman-era architecture from Mecca by the “conservative” Saudi regime.