As a traditional festival, Iranian families annually celebrate the “longest night of the year,” Shab-e-Yalda [Yalda Night in Persian] as a sign of the victory of the light and beauty over the cold and darkness.
For many centuries, Iranian citizens have seized this opportunity to gather and spend time together in specific ceremonies. They particularly adorn their tablecloths with different nuts, sweets, pomegranates, watermelons, and other fruits.
Grandparents usually recite poems of Hafez on this night, which is added as a special ceremony in Iran’s List of National Treasures since 2008.
However, the Yalda Night festival has become a nightmare for Iranian families in recent years. Given the rampant poverty and economic dilemmas, most of the population is wrestling with high prices for basic goods, let alone the specific fruits and nuts of this ancient night.
According to a report by iranfocus.com, Yalda Night has turned into a nightmare for Iranian families rather than an ancient ceremony. “Each family of four should pay at least 1 million rials [$7.7], and since families are gathering together at this ceremony, elders of families should pay much more, around 1.5 to 2 million rials [$11.5-15.3],” the report read.
“Iranian people regularly serve sweets at their ceremonies on Yalda night. Now, the minimum cost of one kilogram of sweets is around 300,000-350,000 rials [$2.3-2.7]… Families have to purchase different kinds of sweets, which means paying much more than 700,000 rials [$5.4],” the report added.
“Iranian families cannot avoid setting nuts on their tablecloths on the occasion of Shab-e Yalda… Therefore, each Iranian family should pay at least 2.5 to 3 million rials [$19.2-23] for a kilogram of a mixture of these nuts,” the report noted, adding, “With a ballpark figure, each family should spend 5 million rials [$38.4] only for the Yalda ceremony.”
Critics might say 5 million rials equal to less than $40, which is not much. However, the reality is, over 80 percent of Iran’s population are living below the poverty line and receive a monthly subsidy worth less than $3.5.
This means those older families, who have no income and rely heavily on subsidies, must spend their five-month subsidy for one night. In this scenario, they must save the rest of their subsidies to spend on the Nowruz celebration, which is more important and requires more expenditures.
Furthermore, according to Javan Online affiliated to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), this year, the price of Yalda Night’s foodstuff, including fruits, nuts, and sweets, has experienced a 100-percent increase.
However, working families, who struggle hard to make ends meet, are not in better condition. Many families have not seen red meat, fresh fruit or vegetable, egg, and other food for months. In the best condition, they can purchase a loaf of bread and some cheese daily to feed their family members.
On the other hand, Iranian families are scrambling against the novel coronavirus this year, which has rubbed additional salt on their wounds. According to the Iranian opposition Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK/PMOI), around 190,000 citizens have lost their lives to the Covid-19 as of December 20.
Regarding the health and hygienic costs, as well as the sharp drop in business, unemployment, and the decrease in people’s purchasing power, many people should prioritize health above other issues.
In such circumstances, while the population, particularly children, need pleasant events like celebrations and ceremonies more than ever, they must ignore this traditional ceremony due to economic problems.
The government has recommended families to hold remote celebrations. However, many citizens who are forced to sell their body organs or even newborn babies, cannot feed their families, let alone prepare for Yalda Night and spend additional money on internet connectivity.
These parameters prompted citizens to complain to officials about the country’s dire economic conditions. In interviews with IRGC-run media, citizens openly criticized the government for fluctuating prices, which change every moment.