Celebrating the Sadeh festival

Published January 31, 2012
An Iranian Zoroastrian girl plays a Daf, a large-sized tambourine, during celebration of Zoroastrians ancient mid-winter Sadeh festival, outside the capital Tehran, Iran, Monday, January 30, 2012.
An Iranian Zoroastrian girl plays a Daf, a large-sized tambourine, during celebration of Zoroastrians ancient mid-winter Sadeh festival, outside the capital Tehran, Iran, Monday, January 30, 2012.
Joyful Iranian Zoroastrian young people join hands and clap, as they celebrate their ancient mid-winter Sadeh festival, outside the capital Tehran, Iran, Monday, January 30, 2012, after setting a giant bonfire.
Joyful Iranian Zoroastrian young people join hands and clap, as they celebrate their ancient mid-winter Sadeh festival, outside the capital Tehran, Iran, Monday, January 30, 2012, after setting a giant bonfire.
Iranian Zoroastrians join hands and form a circle around a giant bonfire, as they celebrate their ancient mid-winter Sadeh festival.
Iranian Zoroastrians join hands and form a circle around a giant bonfire, as they celebrate their ancient mid-winter Sadeh festival.
Iranian Zoroastrians look at and take pictures of a giant bonfire, set alight for their ancient mid-winter Sadeh festival.
Iranian Zoroastrians look at and take pictures of a giant bonfire, set alight for their ancient mid-winter Sadeh festival.
An Iranian Zoroastrian priest, left, and youths sets fire to an already prepared pile of wood, as they celebrate their ancient mid-winter Sadeh festival, outside the capital Tehran, Iran, Monday, January 30, 2012.
An Iranian Zoroastrian priest, left, and youths sets fire to an already prepared pile of wood, as they celebrate their ancient mid-winter Sadeh festival, outside the capital Tehran, Iran, Monday, January 30, 2012.
Iranian Zoroastrian priests attend their ancient mid-winter Sadeh festival, outside the capital Tehran, Iran, Monday, January 30, 2012.
Iranian Zoroastrian priests attend their ancient mid-winter Sadeh festival, outside the capital Tehran, Iran, Monday, January 30, 2012.
Joyful Iranian Zoroastrians join hands and make a circle around a giant bonfire, as they celebrate their ancient mid-winter Sadeh festival, outside the capital Tehran, Iran, Monday, January 30, 2012.
Joyful Iranian Zoroastrians join hands and make a circle around a giant bonfire, as they celebrate their ancient mid-winter Sadeh festival, outside the capital Tehran, Iran, Monday, January 30, 2012.
Joyful Iranian Zoroastrians join hands and make a circle around a giant bonfire, as they celebrate their ancient mid-winter Sadeh festival, outside the capital Tehran, Iran, Monday, Jan. 30, 2012.
Joyful Iranian Zoroastrians join hands and make a circle around a giant bonfire, as they celebrate their ancient mid-winter Sadeh festival, outside the capital Tehran, Iran, Monday, Jan. 30, 2012.
An unidentified Iranian Zoroastrian priest, sets fire to an already prepared pile of wood, during celebration of Zoroastrians ancient mid-winter Sadeh festival, outside the capital Tehran, Iran, Monday, January 30, 2012.
An unidentified Iranian Zoroastrian priest, sets fire to an already prepared pile of wood, during celebration of Zoroastrians ancient mid-winter Sadeh festival, outside the capital Tehran, Iran, Monday, January 30, 2012.
Iranian Zoroastrians celebrate their ancient mid-winter Sadeh festival around a giant bonfire
Iranian Zoroastrians celebrate their ancient mid-winter Sadeh festival around a giant bonfire
Iranian Zoroastrians pray in front of a giant bonfire, as they attend their ancient mid-winter Sadeh festival, outside the capital Tehran, Iran, Monday, January 30, 2012. Sadeh, celebrates the discovery of fire and its ability to banish the cold and dark, and it is held in the frigid depths of winter.
Iranian Zoroastrians pray in front of a giant bonfire, as they attend their ancient mid-winter Sadeh festival, outside the capital Tehran, Iran, Monday, January 30, 2012. Sadeh, celebrates the discovery of fire and its ability to banish the cold and dark, and it is held in the frigid depths of winter.

This gallery displays the celebration of Zoroastrians ancient mid-winter Sadeh festival, outside the capital Tehran, Iran.

Sadeh, celebrates the discovery of fire and its ability to banish the cold and dark, and it is held in the frigid depths of winter.

Sadeh was the national festival of ancient Persia when Zoroastrianism was the dominant religion, before the conquest of Islam in the 7th century. Now it is mostly celebrated just in the homes and temples of Iran's about 60,000 remaining Zoroastrians.

Zoroastrians once numbered in the millions but were persecuted and forced to convert after Muslims rose to power in Iran. A small number fled to India and their descendants became known as Parsis, or people from Persia. — Photos and text by AP

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