In the past two years, the Covid pandemic has given a different feeling to the night because we have heard less about those gatherings.
Farzaneh Babaee, a first grade elementary school teacher, talks about her experience of trying to keep the passion for Yaldā alive in her students:
“Now I had to make Yaldā a happy occasion for the children far from the classroom, the kids, the blackboard and color chalks which all worked miracles. I first tried to distance myself from all the sorrow injected to my soul by the Coronavirus news and then think of colors, sounds, tastes and whatever that made this night meaningful for me over these years.
I returned to my memories, the red color that had been running through my mind since the morning of the last day of autumn and I wanted to bring it out of my heart, put it on the table and share the happiness with my family. Grated pomegranates, the bowl of nuts, and basloqs soaked in coconut powder, which I did not even think of eating at other times of the year, would sit down with a few other edibles that night to give a picture of the warmth and light that we wished for on those Yaldā nights.
When you give in yourself to dreams and get detached from what is going on in your surroundings, you can make a plan for those you love if you want to. By recalling the tastes and colors, I picked up the Divan of Ḥāfeẓ to get a fal (fortune telling) for myself and feel it with all my heart before Yaldā and make a memorable Yaldā night for my pupils from a distance. That was how we greeted the first Yaldā Night during the Covid-stricken year when its days were mingled with reports of death and infection.
Each student was supposed to recite a poem from Ḥāfeẓ and to memorize the couplet they liked and to send to their friends that night. Some mothers had been preparing Yaldā edibles since the morning of the last day of autumn: The red boiled beetroots that were cuddling; red jellies topped with pomegranate seeds were put in the fridge; and the kids were eager to experience being with their family for a few seconds longer at night, with a new understanding of the letters of the alphabet and a sense of belonging to a group called the class.
The sun disappeared from the sky on last day of autumn sooner than we thought. By now, the kids have had a lot of happy and fresh experiences. Now with the arrival of the darkness, they passionately saw the sky full of stars. Now all my boys were sitting in clean clothes and with combed hair at the table which was decorated with cashmere and velvet.
And one by one, they sent me videos of themselves reciting Ḥāfeẓ pomes and sending Yaldā congratulations and also a display of red, round, and sweet edibles that symbolize this ancient feast. Although we were apart, this was the first year that we were really together in the dark of Yaldā Night.”