In the Zoroastrian sacred calendar there are 6 great festivals. These 6 festivals that mark the “proper or propitious points in time” are called yáirya ratvö (right or advantageous times of the year) in the Avestan lore. The autumnal thanksgiving festival or Ayáθrima is celebrated from October 12-October 16.
Ayáθrima literally means “coming to home/shelter.” The first part of Ayáθrima comes from a root that mean “get to a place, come,” and the second part comes from the root thrá “protection/shelter.” This 4th of the great thanksgiving festivals celebrates the “coming home of livestock,” every autumn, from their lush mountain pastures to their shelters.
Ayáθrima goes back to the ancient Indo European nomadic, pastoralist traditions. Animals are beautifully decorated, milk, cheese and other refreshments are offered to the needy or simply to onlookers.
Very Similar traditions still exist among the rural populations of Eastern Europe. The Bavarian festivals of Almabtrieb and Verschied, celebrated in the alpine region of Allgäu are almost identical to Ayáθrima. Verschied and its close partner Almabtrieb celebrate the return of the prodigal cows, every autumn from the their lush mountain pastures, high in the Alps.
Among the 6 “most favorable times the year,” the 3rd festival Paitiš.hahya (bringing in the harvest, fruits) and the 4th Ayāθrima (homecoming of the livestock to their shelter,) celebrate times important for ancient Indo European pastoralists and farmers, while the other festivals mark the solstices, and equinoxes. The fact that the winter solstice festival is called Maiδ.yaar “midyear” shows that these festivals belonged originally to a calendar in which the year was reckoned from the summer solstice.
The auspicious holidays are celebrated with religious services, communal banquets at which the consecrated food are shared, with drinking of lots wine and much merrymaking. The lavish banquets suppose to bring rich and poor together, renew fellowship, with forgiveness of wrongs and charity to the poor. The Sassanid kings are known to have given lavish banquets for their citizens during these auspicious festivals. In Islamic times, down to the 20th century, the Iranian Zoroastrians have regularly endowed these festivals as times of great charity.