Blog Home The history of Christmas tree

Did you know that the tradition of decorating the Christmas tree has its roots in an ancient Persian tradition that is all but forgotten today? Ancient Iranians used to decorate a cedar tree very much similar to how the world today decorates a pine tree.

Yalda is the birthday of Mehr or Mitra. Ancient Iranians recognized that the winter solstice was the longest night of the year; yet on the first day of winter, the days begin growing longer—in other words—the sun stays longer in the sky and graces us with more light and warmth. Therefore, on the last night of fall (longest night of the year), before the sun completely rises, one can sense the glimmer of sunlight, which they called Mehr. The Iranians celebrated this time as the birth of the sun, or the celebration of "Yalda,” also known as "Cheleh.” The next forty days are known as "the longer Cheleh,” and the forty days following that are "the lesser Cheleh" because it is less cold than the first forty days.

Followers of the Mehr religion believed that the cedar is the special tree of the sun and the birth of Mehr, because it is always green and fresh and can withstand the cold and darkness. That is why cedar is the symbol of light and life, stands for immortality, and symbolizes freedom and resistance to the forces of darkness. For this reason on the eve of Mitra's birth, they decorated "Mitra's Cedar," placed gifts around it and promised themselves that the next year they would put up another evergreen cedar. On this basis from the ancient times, cedar is permanent and inseparable from the heaven-like modern day Iranian gardens. They are built in memory of the heaven-like garden that still exists in Persepolis. You can also see the same design on Mehri temples, world-famous silk Iranian carpets and many other forms of arts from cashmere's to miniatures to tiles that we have all around us.