One of the sweetest and most exhilarating rituals being practiced in the north-central province of Semnan is Gol Ghaltan (literally meaning rolling in flowers), which is believed to be a symbol of bringing blessings to the family of a newborn.
The custom goes back to an old Iranian myth called ‘The Smiling Flower’, in which pure and holy humans promised the birth of a child.
People in this region believe that rolling babies among the roses gives them joy and refreshment while keeping them untainted and free from diseases. The freshness of the petals saves the baby’s skin, allowing them to stay happy.
Babies are rolled in the petals of very sweet-smelling kinds of flowers, best known as Mohammadi roses, in the first spring of their lives, mostly in the city of Amirieh, Damghan county, where it may be found among the cutest of rituals.
In spring, when the pink roses bloom in the area, when gardeners, people, and tourists are getting ready for the rosewater distillation festival, commonly known as “Golab-giri”, female members of the families, mainly the baby’s mother, grandmothers, and aunts perform the Gol Ghaltan ceremony.
Days before the ceremony, the women go to the rose gardens early in the morning and pick and collect the flowers while reciting poems and verses of the Quran. The petals are then separated and poured into a light, white cloth.
On the day of the ceremony, one of the grandmothers takes the baby to the bath. Baby’s hands are sometimes painted with henna in some regions. As the baby is dried, he/she is placed among the flowers on the cloth, and petals are poured on the babies, wishing them health and long life.
Women thereafter take four sides of the sheet and roll the baby among the petals while reciting religious songs and waving the sheet back and forth, believing the soul will be cleansed and the child will be kept healthy and fresh.
Guests place their gifts near the cloth after the baby was placed on the floor. As the ceremony concludes, sweets and tea are served.
When the ceremony is over, mothers dry the petals by placing them in shade to keep them for the future, placing the dried petals in their future prayer rugs.
The ritual was inscribed on the national intangible cultural heritage list in 2010.