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Thanksgiving is celebrated in Iran too, just a little differently

By Mona Sabzian, October 21 2020—

Iranian families tend to gather around and visit each other for different occasions throughout the year to celebrate health, joy, love and friendship. Some of the most famous cultural gatherings include Nowruz, the celebration of the Persian New Year which is the first day of spring, Sizdah be-dar, the Persian Festival of Joy, Mehregan, the celebration of Fall, Shab-e Yalda, Jashne Sadeh, a mid-winter festive to honour fire and defeat the force of darkness, cold and frost, Sepandarmazgan, the Day of Love and Chaharshanbe Suri, the Festival of Fire.

Mehregan, which is also called the Persian Festival of Fall or Harvest Festival, is celebrated on Oct. 2, or the 10th of Mehr. The seventh month in the Persian calendar is named Mehr, and it is dedicated to the Goddess of Light — Mithra or Mehr. Her followers believed that she defeated evil and darkness. Mithra is also a common name in the Holy Book Avesta, which means contract. Mehregan is also mentioned as the day when the first male and female, Mashi and Mashiane, were created.

In ancient times, this festival was celebrated for six days. The first day was called “Mehregan-e Khordad’’ and the last day “Mehregan-e Bozorg.” During these days, farmers carried out their harvest and prayed to God for it. The origin of Mehregan dates back as far as the earliest Aryans — the name for Iranian people in ancient times. It was celebrated in an extravagant and fancy style at Persepolis, the capital of the Achaemenid Empire, 550-330 BC.

Mehregan is a great opportunity to remember that everyone’s words, actions and thoughts matter. It is important to be kind to one another and to show compassion toward other people. Therefore, this festival was also a reminder of the cornerstone of the religion of Prophet Zoroaster — good words, good deeds and good thoughts. In addition, Mehregan was the time for collecting taxes.

It is one of the most important festivals since it is a day of Thanksgiving too. The festival is largely regarded as a chance to give thanks, celebrate fall, the harvest, love and friendship. As a result, families and friends gather around to show their “mehr” which means kindness for each other. The ceremony begins at lunch time and continues until midnight. Everyone wears nice, new clothes and gathers around the festive table which is decorated by fresh herbs, stalks of wheat, flowers and candles. Different kinds of foods such as lamb shanks with rice are served along with sweets, fruits — especially pomegranates, grapes, apples, quince and figs — and vegetables and nuts such as almonds or pistachios. The festival symbolically ends with a bonfire and fireworks. Through this festival, harvest is celebrated, friendships are renewed and families are visited.

Although Thanksgiving is celebrated on various calendar dates and in different traditions, it is honoured and celebrated by so many nations around the world. It is not only the day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest but it is also the day of giving thanks for everything one has in their life such as health, happiness, love, family and friends. Thanksgiving is an opportunity to express love and friendship for each other and celebrate the existence of all the gifts and blessings in life. 

A picture of a traditional Mehregan table that’s decorated with sunflowers, stalks of wheat and fresh fruit. // Photo courtesy of GoldenDays Travel Group

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