Sadeh Festival: The Zoroastrian Celebration of Fire

Sadeh Festival & Iran’s Intangible Heritage

The Sadeh Festival
The Sadeh Festival

The Sadeh Festival was recently listed as an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO! In light of this good news, we’d like to introduce you to this ancient holiday and its history, with the hope that you learn more about Iranian culture!

The word Sadeh in Persian means one hundred, which, in this case, refers to the fact that the celebration is held 50 days before Nowruz, the new year, in other words, 100 days and nights before Nowruz. The Sadeh Festival is observed by Zoroastrians in Iran and Tajikistan and has been around ever since the Achaemenid Empire.

The History of Sadeh

People gathered around a bonfire during Sadeh
Sadeh Bonfire

Zoroastrian legends tell an interesting tale of the foundation of the Sadeh Festival: According to them, the festivity’s origin dates to the time of King Hushang of the mythological Pishdadian dynasty (the rulers of the world, according to legend). It is said that one day, Hushang was climbing a mountain when he saw a snake. In a panic, he threw a stone at it, but it didn’t hit the target; it instead fell down and hit another stone and as they were both flint stones, a fire broke out and scared the snake away. Hushang saw this as a gift from God, the gift of light.

If you’re familiar with the Zoroastrian religion, you probably know that fire is a sacred thing to people of this creed, as it represents light, which is Good, and battles darkness, which is Evil. So, the most essential part of the Sadeh Festival is lighting fire.

The Customs of Sadeh Festival

People Celebrating Sada
The Sadeh Festival

Traditionally, the Sadeh Festival meant that people would gather near a fire temple, where a large fire was lit, using mainly camel thorns (a common desert shrub in Iran) that had been gathered in advance. This itself held a ritualistic purpose, as the gathering of thorns was done by young men who would be setting out of their homes for the first time. The fire would burn all night long and the following days were the time for people to celebrate. After the fire died out, farmers and locals alike would take some of the ash to scatter on their fields/keep in their houses as a blessing.

Where Can You Participate in the Sadeh Festival?

The Interior of Chak Chak Fire Temple
The Interior of Chak Chak Fire Temple

If you want to experience a truly authentic Sadeh Festival, you can do so in the cities of Yazd and Kerman -the two cities with the highest population of Zoroastrians in Iran. There’s an ancient fire temple by the name of Chak-Chak, located in the Yazd province, where the celebrations are held with complete religious intent. However, people of all faiths from all over Iran have become more and more interested in this ancient tradition, you can participate in a Sadeh which is stripped of its religious context in most major cities in the country.

Final Words

And that’s pretty much it! We hope this article helped you learn more about Iran! We’d love to talk to you about our culture when you come to Sarv Hostel, and be sure to check our Instagram, because who knows what events we may have! Also, if you’re coming to Isfahan, you can read about the best things to do in the city following this link and Isfahan hostels following this one!

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