As the Iranians prepare to celebrate the feasts of Yalda and Noruz, I would like to recall an ancient festivity that is less frequently remembered, even less than Mehrgan, and yet is in all likelihood the oldest of all. The celebration of Sada is more ancient than many of the other Iranian traditions.
Sade or Sadeh (سده)
or Satak (in Pahlavi or Middle Persian), meaning one hundred (and some
understand it as towing fire), is an ancient Iranian tradition celebrated 50
days before Noruz. It is named one hundred because on the day of this feast,
there are fifty days plus fifty nights left before the New Year; i.e., before
March 21. In this celebration, people used to honor fire as a means of
cleansing and as a way of defeating the darkness and cold (thus its natural
Zoroastrian association). Based on some sources, it is believed that this is
perhaps the oldest festivity in Iran and even older than Zoroastrianism. It may
well be the oldest festivity in the world. It is interesting to note
that in recent decades, the Iranians living outside Iran often observe these
ancient festivities more earnestly.