Many in Western countries might wonder if Iranians celebrate Valentine’s Day, considering the East as a distant world. However, the reality is that people increasingly share universal human experiences day by day.
Social networks have made it easier to access diverse cultures and customs. As a result, people are integrating those aspects they find beautiful or meaningful into their lives.
Valentine’s Day ranks among the most famous celebrations globally. People often mark the occasion with red flowers and chocolates in many countries. Interestingly, in Iran, Valentine’s Day transforms shops and streets with red hearts and rose boxes.
Celebrating Valentine’s in Iran offers a unique experience. One can witness and interpret the occasion in a distinctive context.
Red Romance: Tehran’s Valentine’s Day Transformation
Every February, numerous neighborhoods and stores transform their decor to “red”. In Tehran, for instance, a stroll through Mirzaye Shirazi and Nejatollahi streets, situated in the city’s Armenian district, immerses you in a perfect Valentine’s Day ambiance.
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 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.
Dedicated to Spenta Armaiti, the Amesha Spenta symbolizing “earth” and femininity, this day holds a special place just four days after Valentine’s Day. It proudly features on the national calendar of the country, celebrating the earth and femininity.
Valentine or Sepandarmazgan?
Sepandarmaz, synonymous with ‘holy earth,’ epitomizes sanctity in Zoroastrianism. Spenta Mainyu, the Holy Spirit created by Lord Ahura Mazda, counters the destructive spirit. This aspect embodies the Wise Lord himself. Through Spenta Mainyu, Ahura Mazda fosters 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.
You might now view Valentine’s Day in Iran differently. The beauty lies in the universal understanding and perception of love, irrespective of our birthplace or upbringing. We celebrate love in its true form, be it rooted in Christian or Zoroastrian traditions, because love speaks a universal language that transcends interpretation!