Jashn’e Sadeh is an ancient Iranian tradition celebrated on January 30th, 50 days before Norooz. Sadeh in Persian means hundred and refers to one hundred days and nights left to the beginning of the new year celebrated at the first day of spring on March 21st each year. Sadeh is a mid winter festival that was celebrated with grandeur and magnificence in ancient Iran. It was a festivity to honor fire and to defeat the forces of darkness, frost and cold.
Legends have it that King Hooshang, the first king of the mythological Kayanian dynasty, established the Sadeh tradition. It is said that once Hooshang was climbing a mountain when all of a sudden he saw a snake and wanted to hit it with a stone. When he threw the stone, it fell on another stone and since they were both flint stones, fire broke out and the snake escaped. This way he discovered how to light a fire. Hooshang cheered up and praised God who revealed to him the secret of lighting a fire. Then he announced: "This is a light from God. So we must admire it."
According to religious beliefs, Jashn’e Sadeh recalls the importance of light, fire and energy; light which comes from God is found in the hearts of his creatures.
During ancient times, Jashn'e Sadeh was celebrated by lighting fire. For Zoroastrians the chief preparation for Sadeh was and still in some parts is the gathering of wood the day before the festival. Teenage boys accompanied by a few adult males would go to local mountains in order to gather camel thorns, a common desert shrub in Iran. For most, this is the first time they are away from their families. The occasion resembles a ritual of passage to adulthood, a notable step for the boys on the way to manhood. The boys would take the camel thorns to the temples in their cities; and if it were their first time doing this, on their return, a celebration was held at home with the presence of friends and families.
During ancient times, the fires were always set near water and the temples. The fire originally meant to assist the revival of sun and bring back the warmth and light of summer. It was also meant to drive off the demons of frost and cold, which turned water to ice, and thus could kill the roots of plants.
The fire was kept burning all night. The day after, women would go to the fire in the morning, each taking a small portion of the fire back to their homes to make new glowing fire from the "blessed fire" of the temple. This is to spread the blessing of the Sadeh fire to every household in the neighborhood. Whatever is left from the fire would be taken back to the shrine to be placed in one container and kept at the temple until the next year. This way the fire is kept burning all year round. The "eternal fire" also symbolizes the love of homeland which is always alive like a fervent fire in the people's hearts.
The festivities would normally go on for three days. The evenings are spent eating and giving out foods as donations, food that is prepared from slaughtered lambs and is distributed among the poor people.
The most elaborate report of the celebration comes from the 10th century during the reign of Mardavij Zeyari, the ruler of Isfahan. From Iranian origin, the Zeyar family did their best to keep the old traditions alive. Huge bon fires were made in both sides of the Zayandeh Rood, the main river dividing the city. The fires were contained in specially build metal holders to maintain control. Hundreds of birds were released while carrying little fireballs to light the sky. There were fireworks, clowns, dance and music with lavish feasts of roasted lamb, beef, chicken and other delicacies.
Every year, on 30th of January, thousands of Zoroastrians in Iran and other countries celebrate the religious feast of Jashn’e Sadeh by burning firewood in an open space to signify the coming of spring and as a symbolic token of the eternal fight with mischief. There is a cave in a mountain near Yazd called Chak Chak Fire Temple. Every year some special ceremonies are held in this place during the Sadeh Feast. It is believed that the last Zoroastrian princess took shelter there in 640 AD when the Muslims expanded their power to the east.