Religious occasions in Iran are based on the Islamic lunar calendar and therefore they tend to fall on different days and in different months of the solar calendar.
Ashura Mournings: One of the most important religious holidays in Iran, Ashura mourning ceremonies are held nationwide for two days to mark the martyrdom of the second Shia Imam, Hussein (PBUH), during the battle of Karbala along with some of his family members and companions.
Although the actual holiday is two days long, preparations begin one week prior to Ashura.
If you visit Iran during this time, you will be able to see mourning processions on the street and Persian passion plays reenacting the Karbala tragedy. On the eve of Ashura, people light candles for those slain in Karbala and in remembrance of the fear experienced by the survivors of the massacre who were chased by the hostile army after the battle.
During this time most shops and restaurants are closed, however, free food is distributed on the streets. Hotel restaurants cater to the needs of travelers.
Ramadan: The fasting month of Ramadan is an important annual occurrence. As a Muslim country, the Ramadan fast is observed in Iran. While Travelers are exempt from the fast, it is not acceptable to drink or eat on the street from dawn until dusk when the fast is observed.
The majority of restaurants will be closed during this month and most eateries will only open after the end of the fast when the evening call of prayers is announced. However, certain restaurants including those located in hotels will serve food to travelers. These restaurants have signs in front of them.
While it is not required for people of other faiths to observe the Ramadan fast, visitors to Iran should refrain from eating and drinking in public before the evening call of prayers out of respect for the religious beliefs of Iranians and the law of the country.
Other Occasions: Mourning ceremonies are also held throughout the country on the anniversary of the martyrdom and/or passing of other Shia Imams most notably the martyrdom of the first Shia Imam Ali (PBUH).
There birth anniversary of the Shia Imams are celebrated in Iran and on these occasions pastries, Sherbet and sweet nuts are distributed and cities are decorated with lights and banners. The most important of these celebrations is ‘Mid-Sha’aban,’ which is the birth anniversary of the 12th Shia Imam, Mahdi.