Autumn starts with the month of Mehr in Persia, and its 16th day is the celebration of light, friendship, kindness, and love in the ancient Avestan calendar, Mehregan. Mehr is the symbol of the Sun in Persian culture, and this glorious star is said to be the eye of Mitra, the goddess of light. Mehregan Celebration is the ritual of nature and the sun. Its message is good words, good deeds, and good thoughts. Its lesson is to become like nature, always changing for good, being generous, and being like the gorgeous sites of our beautiful planet.
What is Mehregan Celebration?
195 days after Nowruz is the Persian festival of the autumn. It is Thanksgiving Day for Iranian farmers. In older days Mehregan was harvest day and some of the crops were sent to the king as a gift. On Mehregan, friends, and family gather to celebrate the beginning of the beautiful fall season. On this day people go to visit their loved ones, especially the ones that have been missed for a long time to enjoy the beauty of this vibrant-colored season together.
The festival dates back to the pre-Islamic era. It is one of the few pre-Islamic festivals celebrated by the general public in contemporary Iran. This festival marked the end of harvest and the beginning of winter. Ancient and medieval authors have recorded its celebration as occurring both before and after Islam. Mithra and Ahura Mazda were watching over a plentiful harvest and sustenance for the upcoming winter as a sign of our mutual promises and duties with the divine.
How is Mehregan Celebrated?
Mehregan celebration is as important as Nowruz for Persians and it has its own unique traditions. Violets, sweets, rose water, candles, flowers, and fruits especially apples and pomegranates are set on a violet-colored tablecloth to start the fest. Almond and pistachio are among the requirements to make this tradition as Persian as possible. Violets characterize Mehregan as the symbol of light, love, and friendship that dates back to the ancient days of Persia. Espand (rue seeds) will be thrown in the flames to be safe from the evil eye on this happy day. The ceremony begins with saying a prayer in front of a mirror. Hugs and kisses are exchanged after a handful of Noghl (sugar plum) is thrown over each other’s heads.
In most households, the entire family and guests stand in front of the altar table, facing the mirror during the ceremony. A traditional ritual here includes prayer and hymns followed by drinking fruit juices like pomegranate juice or sherbet, a classic Iranian beverage. And the application of the kohl from the Sormeh-dan is considered a blessing against evil forces which in traditional Zoroastrian communities, can mean the forces of Ahriman, the Evil Eye, and other such cursed actions. As guests and household members embrace and exchange gifts, seeds are thrown around with joy and cheer.