Sadeh Festival in Tajikistan Date in the current year: January 30, 2024

Sadeh Festival in Tajikistan Tajikistan is the only country where four ancient Iranian holidays associated with the change of seasons – Sadeh, Nowruz, Tirgan and Mehregan – have an official status. Sadeh is a midwinter festival celebrated annually on January 30.

Like many other midwinter festivals celebrated in various countries across the world, Sadeh symbolizes the victory of light over darkness and spring over winter. It is traditionally observed 50 days before Nowruz, the first day of the year in the Iranian calendar that falls on the spring equinox. The word “sadeh” is translated from Persian as “hundred”. It is a reference to 50 days and 50 nights remaining until the first day of spring.

According to legend, the tradition of celebrating Sadeh was established by Hushang, the second king of the legendary Pishdadian dynasty. The epic poem Shahnameh written by the renowned Persian poet Ferdowsi tells the story of how it happened.

One day, Hushang went hunting in the mountains and encountered a snake. He threw a stone at it, but missed. The stone hit the rock and struck a spark that set fire to the grass. This is how Hushang learned how to light a fire. He considered this incident a divine revelation and ordered that a holiday be established in honor of the fire.

Back in the day, bonfires were the main attribute of the Sadeh festivals. In ancient Persia, teenage boys gathered wood for the bonfires the day before the festival. They went to local mountains accompanied by a few adult men to gather camel thorns. For most of the boys, it was kind of a right of passage, since it was the first time in their lives they went so far away from their families and their village.

The fires were always lit near temples and water. They were supposed to drive off the demons of cold and frost, revive the sun, and speed up the arrival of spring. Large bonfires were kept burning all the night, and in the morning, women would take a small portion of hot embers to their homes and used them to light the fire in the hearth.

The celebration of Sadeh lasted for three days, filled with singing, dancing, praying, and eating. Some of the food from the holiday table was always donated to the poor so that they could participate in the festivities.

Persians continued to celebrate Sadeh even after the Muslim conquest in the 7th century. However, the popularity of the festival has declined over the years. Today, the festival is still celebrated in some Iranian cities with a significant Zoroastrian population, such as Yazd and Kerman. The festivities don’t include the gathering of camel thorn anymore, and most activities take place inside the temples rather than outside.

In recent years, there have been a surge of interest in the revival of traditional Persian festivals in Tajikistan. In 2017, Tajikistani President Emomali Rahmon declared Sadeh an official holiday. Since then, it has been celebrated throughout the country every January 30. Festivities include agricultural fairs, indoor and outdoor concerts, and other celebratory events and activities.

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Cultural Observances, Folk Festivals



Sadeh, midwinter festival, holidays in Tajikistan, cultural observances, folk festivals