COVID-19 shadow on Sadeh

TEHRAN, Jan. 31 (MNA) – The Zoroastrian Festival of Sadeh, like other big celebrations worldwide affected by the coronavirus pandemic, was held in Iran on Friday with a limited audience under strict health protocols.

The festivity is nowadays more popular among Iranian Zoroastrians in the cities of Yazd, Tehran, Shiraz, and Kerman. Narratives say that the feast is to remember the mythical discovery of fire. That’s why they set fire to a big pile of wood when the event reaches its climax.

One of the cities that celebrates the festival in a special manner is Kerman, which attracted numerous visitors from all over the world. This year's celebrations were held with few attendants, while it was held with special splendor in previous years.

All the cities also resisted big gatherings in the ancient Sadeh celebration, unlike previous years, to avoid the transmission of the disease.

Named after the number one hundred (Sad in Farsi), the event marks 50 days and 50 nights before Noruz (the beginning of the Iranian calendar year on March 21). The common belief emphasizes that it is a mid-winter ritual to celebrate the date when the earth starts warming up.

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

Some say Sadeh is a festivity to honor fire and to defeat the forces of darkness, frost, and cold. Several mythological accounts, however, connect the festival to the origins of human beings. According to Persian mythology, Houshang, the second king of the world, discovered the fire when he tried to hit a dragon with a stone. He reportedly threw a flint stone that struck against another flint stone causing a spark and generating fire.

Before 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.

A crowd of people gathering around the fire in Sadeh celebration before the coronavirus pandemic

 Social distancing replaces big gatherings

Noruz, Yalda Night - which takes place on the longest night of the year, and Chaharshanbeh Souri - in praise of the spring, are examples of such ceremonies that were affected by the pandemic.

This year, people lost the opportunity to celebrate the big occasions as always in gatherings, from Noruz to different festivals or religious ceremonies which all held avoiding gatherings.

The outbreak reached its peak concurrent with the Iranian New Year celebration (March 21, 2020), making Noruz different from years and even centuries ago.

However, in Sizdah Bedar, people were also asked to stay at home and resist picnicking outdoor to break the chain of coronavirus transmission, and they were successful in curbing the disease.

Sizdah Bedar, also known as Nature Day, is an Iranian festival held annually on the thirteenth day of Farvardin, the first month of the Iranian calendar (falling on April 1 this year), during which Iranians reconcile with nature by spending time in resorts, gardens, and natural areas. It marks the end of the Noruz holidays in Iran.

In the light of the global pandemic, Christmas was also celebrated virtually, unlike usual gatherings, among Iranian Christians.

First Published in TehranTimes

News Code 169288


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