April 30th marks the beginning of the Zoroastrian “mid-spring” or maiδyö.zarem. Maiδyö literally means “middle” and zarem from zar refers to the “bright golden green color of spring flowers and vegetation.” The mid-spring festival lasts five days and culminates on May 4th.
The Avestan epithet of maiδyö.zarem is payan meaning “milk, syrup, nectar.” (Compare Avestan payan with Lithuanian pienas “milk” Greek pion “fat, cream” Sanskrit payate/ pituh “rich liquid, syrup, sap, milk.”)
Maiδyö.zarem is the first thanksgiving festival of the Avestan calendar and lies halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. The festival marks the beginning of the pastoral summer season, when cattle/livestock are driven out to the summer pastures.Rituals using the symbolic use of fire and bright flowers are performed to encourage growth, the abundance of milk and dairy products and protect the cattle, crops and people from harm and negative energies.
Doorways, windows, equipment for milking, butter making and cattle themselves are decorated with bright flowers to evoke fire and youthfulness.
Like almost all other Zoroastrian rituals bonfires are kindled, and their flames, smoke and ashes are used in sacred rituals. The people and their cattle would walk around the bonfire, or between two bonfires, and leap over flames or embers. People ensure that the smoke of incense from the fire is blown over them and their cattle.
All household fires, hearths and candles are re-lit from the bonfire. When the bonfire has died down, the ashes from it are thrown among the sprouting crops.
In the Avesta, these thanksgiving feasts are called yaar ratö (annual rites, formulas/appointed times for advice, wise counsel and deliberation.)
During these thanksgiving feasts music is played, sacred verses from the poetic gathas of the prophet are recited, and participants enjoy seasonal fruits and other agricultural produce bár (literally “what earth bears forth”) in a communal spirit. It is especially meritorious to offer wine and/or syrup drinks to the participants during this festival (See afrín or loving hymns to thanksgiving festivals verses 4-7.)
In addition, banquets are offered as votive offerings to various powerful names of God or angels and holy spirits for securing a wish; or are offered after the supplicant has received the fulfillment of wish .
The customs, various rituals and ceremonies associated with gahan-bars show striking similarities to shia moslem SOFRA ceremonies. It appears that the custom of offering sofras to various holy figures among Iranian shiasis a modified relic of pre-Islamic Iranian Zoroastrian ceremonies. (sofras are spreads on which food and ceremonial objects are laid as beautiful offerings to holy spirits or saints.)