It’s true that festivals and celebrations reflect the cultural beauties of a region, it would be a matchless experience to visit a destination during festival days and join these cultural treasures along with enjoying the tangible heritage. Iranians are a multi-ethnic nation and a mixture of different religions; this diversity leads to interesting sets of popular festivities which celebrated in Iran round the year in different parts of this vast land.
The festive days in Iran have various roots such as ancient beliefs of Zoroastrianism culture based on Jalali Calendar or Islamic events based on Lunar Calendar. We can categorize these holidays and events into four titles. The first one is Persian Festivals which mostly have Zoroastrian roots, the second important category is Islamic Events of Arabic calendar, the next is Harvest Festivals of Iranian unique products and the last section are National Holidays about Iran revolution in 1979.
1. The first and most popular festivals in Iran are Persian festivals which have their roots in ancient times and mostly Zoroastrian culture, the famous ones are celebrated all over the country but some others are just celebrated in specific regions and provinces.
- Nowruz: Nowruz is the Iranian new year festival and also it presents the happiness of the beginning of Spring, Nowrooz is also celebrated in other countries besides Iran, like Tajikistan and Azerbaijan. The last day of Nowruz holidays is called Sizdabedar, Sizdah-Be-Dar is the 13th day of the Persian new year (2 April). It’s the nature day in Iran and most of the people go picnicking in nature during this public holiday.
- Yalda Night (December 20): Yalda Night or Shab-e Cheleh is an Iranian ancient ceremony which is considered as the last night of fall and the first night of winter. Families used to gather at Yalda night in order to move from the lengthiest night to the light of the next day.
- Mehregan (October 2): Mehregan is the second most important Persian festival after New year festival, Nowruz, but it is not celebrated all over the country and is regarded as a festival for the Zoroastrian community. It is celebrated in honour of Mithra or Mehr, the God of love and friendship. Mehregan was also a celebration of the fall harvest, thanking God for a flourishing season ahead. Currently, in Yazd and Kerman, Zoroastrians celebrate this day by praying, slaughtering a sheep and also wearing novel clothes and preparing a table of delicious things such as sweets, nuts and fruits.
- Chahrshanbe Suri: Chaharshanbe Soori is a combination of two different words: Chaharshanbe means Wednesday and Soori means Red. This family run ceremony happens just before the last Wednesday of each Iranian solar year, on the evening of the last Tuesday. Iranian People celebrate Charshnbeh soori by lighting a fire and jumping over it and also lighting up the sky by colorful fireworks. When people jumping over the fire, they sing a special song:
“Sorkhi-ye man az to, Zardi-ye to az man” which means “Give me your fiery red color and take back my wintry shallowness yellow”.
- Sadeh (January 10): Sadeh festival is one of the ancient Persian traditions celebrated by Zoroastrians. It is celebrated mid-winter up to 3 days, 40 days after the night of Yalda. By lighting big fires and gathering around it, performing rituals and donate foods, people try to bring warmth and light, defeat the darkness and cold of winter and gratitude God’s blessings.
2. As a Shiite Muslim country, Islamic Events are the other big reason in Iran for holding religious festivals including unique rituals in many parts of the country.
- Tasua and Ashura: The cultural event of Ashura and Tassua which occurs during the month of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, is one of the biggest events in the world of Shi’a Muslims. It is the mourning anniversary of the death of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad, in the Battle of Karbala on the 7th century BC. You can participate in the rituals of Ashura festival in diffirent cities of Iran although some of them hold it more glorious such as Yazd, Zanjan, and Busher.
- Ramadan: The 9th month of the Lunar calendar is Ramadhan, the month of fasting for Muslims from sunrise to sunset and the holiest month round the year. The 19th, 21st, 23rd and 27th of Ramadan are the nights of Qadr, the nights of the revelation of the Qur’an to Muhammad. The 21st of Ramadan is also the day of Imam Ali’s Martyrdom which is a public holiday and during this day the tourist attractions are mostly closed. In this article you can check different details about traveling to Iran during Ramadan.
- Eid-e Fetr: Immediately after Ramadan, the hard days of fasting, Eid-e Fetr is celebrated by all Muslims. A public holiday which begins early morning with mass prayers and dedicated to family gatherings, food donations, quick vacations and many other happy family-based activities.
- Eid Al-Adha or Eid-e Qurban: Eid-e Ghorban or the Feast of Sacrifice happens on the final month of Islamic lunar calendar, the month of Hajj, it is celebrated by all Muslims and started with a mass prayer like Eid-e Fetr. Every year on this day, an animal such as sheep or cattle is sacrificed and given to poor people and relatives in the commemoration of Ibrahim. Ibrahim was told to sacrifice his son, Ismaeel, and he accepted God’s command, but after he passed the test by showing his willingness, God gave him a lamp and saves Ismael.
- Eid-e Ghadir: Eid-e Ghadir also happens on the final month of Islamic lunar calendar. This Eid is an anniversary of the event at Ghadir-e Khum when Muhammad in his farewell Hajj declared Ali as his successor, it’s a national holiday in Iran and only celebrated by Shia Muslims
3. Harvest Festivals are getting more popular day by day among travelers due to the variety of products under diverse climate in Iran. Unique Persian products such as Saffron, Pomegranate, Pistachio, Date, Barberry and Pink Rose are the most important products that farmers around the country hold annual harvest festivals.
- Saffron Harvest: Saffron plays the main role in delicious Persian food and sweet recipes. This expensive flower thread is used in Iranian Carpets, Persian Rugs and Yarns. Every year during November farmers hire many local people to harvest their saffron. To harvest each ounce of Red Sargol of Saffron, It’s needed to grow 7000 Purple Saffron. The saffron flower should be hand-picked and the stigmas should be taken precisely. Saffron tours are available to help you participate in this unique process.
- Rosewater Festival: During springtime, early May to mid-June based on the weather situation, Rose-Water Festivals are held in Iran, especially in Kerman, Fars and Isfahan provinces. Local people harvest the pink roses called Gol-e Mohammadi and boil them in a copper pot for extracting rosewater. Flavour and scent of Iranian rose water (Golab) is exceptional and Iranian use it widely in their cuisine, as medicine and also in religious places; some cities like Qamsar and Niyasar in Kashan, Meybod in Fars and Laleh-zar district in Kerman, are famous for their rosewater festivals. This tour is a great set of unique spring activities round the country especially the rosewater festival in Kashan: https://friendlyiran.com/iran-tours/iran-spring-tour/
- Pomegranate Festival: Pomegranate trees have long history in Iran since these trees were planted in temples in the era of Zoroastrianism. At the beginning of fall harvest celebrations are held in Iran, during pomegranate festival people play traditional local music, children wear colorful clothes, youngsters play local games and farmers represent their crops and many other products from pomegranate.