People living in western countries may ask if Iranians celebrate Valentine’s day or no, as east may seem a far, far land! But the truth is that people share what is mutual among human beings more and more as every day goes by.
Thanks to social networks, nowadays people have easy access to different cultures and customs and so, they integrate those which seem beautiful or meaningful to their lives.
Valentine’s day is one of the most well-known celebrations worldwide. Celebrating valentine with red flowers and chocolates is a common way in most countries where it is celebrated, but it is interesting to know that valentine’s day brings red hearts and boxes of roses to the shops and streets in Iran as well. In fact, celebrating valentine's in this country can be a very interesting experience, as it can be seen and understood in a different context.
Each year when February arrives, there are many neighborhoods and stores which change their decorations and become “red”. In Tehran, for example, taking a short walk in Mirzaye Shirazi and Nejatolahi streets (which are located in the Armenian district of the city) can take you directly into a perfect valentine’s day atmosphere. Here, there are many stores and shops selling big red hearts, chocolates and all other signs of valentine. You will see many couples celebrating the day holding hands and walking on the streets. In other words, ‘love is in the air’ on valentine’s day, even in Iran!
The other sign of the valentine’s day is crowded restaurants and coffee shops. Add to this the traffic jams in bigger cities like Tehran. If you haven’t reserved any place for having dinner on this day, you should be careful about eating out, as it may take a long time to get in and have a meal. Coffee shops are also very popular on valentine’s day. You just need to go to the center of the city and see many lovers sitting in coffee shops, talking, laughing and exchanging gifts! On the streets, you will see people who are selling red balloons and roses, too.
Now, Valentine’s day may seem typical in Iran and a derivation from its western version. Well, I have to say although it may seem so, the truth is that celebrating love on a special day has deeper roots in Iran! In fact, its roots date back to the Achaemenid Empire, the first Persian Empire. Sepandarmazgan or Espandegan is the name of this ancient Iranian day of love and women.
This day is dedicated to Spenta Armaiti, the Amesha Spenta who is given the domain of “earth”, which is also a symbol of femininity. The day is registered on the national calendar of the country, only 4 days after valentine´s day!
Sepandarmaz is another name for mainyu (earth) which means holy. Spenta Mainyu, in Zoroastrianism, is the Holy Spirit which is created by the Lord, Ahura Mazda, to defy the destructive spirit. Spenta Mainyu is an aspect of the Wise Lord himself. Through the Spenta Mainyu (Holy Spirit), Ahura Mazdā creates life and goodness.
According to Zoroastrian belief, Spenta Mainyu protects and maintains many realms and creatures—the sky, water, earth, plants, and children yet to be born.
Well, you might now have a different outlook about the valentine’s day in Iran. What makes all of this even more beautiful is that no matter where we have born or raised, we all understand and perceive love as it really is. We all celebrate it whether it has Christian or Zoroastrian roots because love is a universal language that does not need any interpretation!