MAID-YAAR, a forgotten Festival

The midwinter season corresponding to late December-January is a time for important feasts and the Maid-Yaar festival in the Zoroastrian Calendar.  “MAID-YAAR” or mid-year/mid winter ranks after Vernal Equinox or the New Year celebrations as the SECOND MOST FESTIVE Thanksgiving Festival in the Zoroastrian calendar.

The importance of this religious holiday as “the second most important” is cited throughout ancient Avesta and later middle Iranian/pahlavi literature. We read in “áfringán gahan-bár” or the “Avestan blessing formulas” associated with seasonal thanksgiving celebrations, verse 11: “In the case that a person does not celebrate “MAID-YAAR,” he/she must be expelled from among the community of the Mazda worshippers.”

Avestan MAID means “middle,” “midmost.” YAAR is the same as German “Jahr,” Ducth “Jaar,” English “Year.” It goes back to a time when years where counted by winters, and alludes to the heart of the cold season/winter.

“MAID-YAAR” celebrations start on December 31st and culminate on January the 4th, or from the 286th to 290th day of the religious year. January 4th falls close to the Epiphany or the time when the three Wise Men or Zoroastrian MAGIS have visited the Christ child.

Like the rest of the thanksgiving festivals it is a time of charity and good will toward all the worthy creations. Traditionally, during MAID-YAAR trees were decorated with edibles for the benefit of the wild life.

Like the rest of the thanksgiving festivals, Maid-Yaar is celebrated with the recital of sacred verse or prayers on fruits, nuts, wine, sweets and the serving of traditional ásh or hearty soup (ásh, Avetan ad, “to eat” literally “edible.”) The shia sofreh offerings and traditions are almost identical to that of the ancient Zoroastrian religious thanksgiving ceremonials. And striking similarities in objects and foodstuffs exists between the two.

I like to conclude by saying that while the Menög-Khirad (Chap. 4) says that the heartfelt celebration of thanksgiving festivals are among acts of profound wisdom. The Vohü-man Yasht (2:45) prophesies that the non-celebration of the thanksgiving feasts will be evil and doom for the world.


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