Gahambar Traditions

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Gahambar

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The Gahambars are the seven major festivals of the Zoroastrians and are celebrated with a religious ritual which is described by Mary Boyce, as it was done in Iran, pp. 42-44, see A Persian Stronghold. The actual religious part is called an Afrinagan and is described by Ali A. Jafarey on www.zoroastrian.org. The prayers for this are given in the ancient texts of the Zoroastrians. It is required that these prayers be spoken by a Zoroastrian priest and the attendance is restricted to actual Zoroastrians. There is also a communal feast in which everyone brings something to add, such as dairy, meat, grain, legumes and vegetables and this article just gives the more general traditions for the communal celebration, especially the foods.

Seeds for Gahambar feast in the spring According to the Zoroastrians, Novruz (New Year’s Day, celebrated at the Spring Equinox, usually March 20 or 21st), was instituted by Jamshid and is more specifically called Jamshid Novruz. The beginning of this festival is also described in the Shah Namah where he is one of the legendary Persian kings. Most Persians are now Moslems, however Novruz is still celebrated as a secular holiday in Iran, with fireworks, feasting and visiting, and we can all enjoy the traditional festival foods of this time. fuggle26

Communal Feast
The communal feast at Gahambars includes a dish called an Âsh. There is also bread, including a special bread called dron which is blessed by the priest, with a description for making it given by Mary Boyce, pp. 38-39 in A Persian Stronghold, and there is always ajil or lurk, a mixture of 7 kinds of dried fruit and nuts which people could take home with them. The recipes follow.

Âsh Reshteh Recipe
Âsh Reshteh (this version with noodles) is one of the traditional foods at Gahambars. Âsh just means ‘soup’ in Persian. It’s highly variable, in fact, it is probably made traditionally from whatever people could bring, like “Stone Soup”. But this version is typically Persian, and is especially appropriate to the celebration of Novruz, because it includes many kinds of seed foods. It is eaten in bowls and may have little patterns formed on top with bright-colored spices or yoghurt.

If possible, drain a cup of yoghurt in the refrigerator overnight, and also soak the beans and chickpeas in water overnight or just use canned beans. Lentils don’t need to be soaked.

Ingredients
spaghetti or linguini noodles, cooked and set aside
1/2 cup red beans
1/2 cup white beans
1/4 cup garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
1/4 cup lentils

1 big bunch of spinach, cut small
1 onion, sliced (and some saved for the onion garnish and the yoghurt garnish)
2 garlic cloves, minced (and some saved for the yoghurt garnish)
1 T olive oil
turmeric powder or a shake of curry powder
a shake of chili powder (not too authentic, but still good)
salt to taste
black pepper
Put all this together in a pot, with water or chicken stock. Cook until the beans are tender, then add the noodles back in and eat it in big bowls with the garnishes on top.

Yoghurt Garnish
1 cup of plain yoghurt, drained
1 tablespoon of the onion, which had been chopped
1/2 of a garlic clove, which had been chopped
salt to taste
mint, chopped (plus save a few nice leaves to put on top)
Mix all this together, and let the flavors mingle, and then put a dollop of yoghurt with an extra mint leaf on top of the soup.

Onion Garnish
oil
a pinch of sugar
sliced onions
minced garlic
turmeric powder
Heat the oil in a pan, add a pinch of sugar and when it caramelizes, add the onions, garlic, turmeric powder. Cook the onions until they turn brown. Put some on top of the soup.

Spice Powder Garnish
Make a little stencil cut from a piece of paper and use it to sprinkle bright-colored spices (red or yellow such as curry, or chili powder) in a pattern on top of the soup.

It is also traditional to include spiced meatballs called Gheimeh or some other meat, but I left that out and added some baby zucchini and some green beans and it was delicious. [fuggle26]

Lurk Recipe
Lurk, or as it sometimes called Ajil, was provided at every Gahambar, and people took some home and shared it with everyone. It is made from dried fruit and nuts, always with 7 kinds, since that is the favorite number of Zarathustra. I make lurk every year at least at Novruz and share it with my friends and celebrate in a secular way. It’s really just Trail Mix, but it sounds more fun to call it Lurk. The usual ingredients, as given by Mary Boyce, on p. 38 in A Persian Stronghold ..., are: senjed or dried oleaster fruit (very common and available in Iran), and dates, raisins, almonds, dried apricots, plums and mulberries. Other sources list: pistachios, roasted chickpeas, almonds, hazelnuts, dried figs, apricots, and raisins, with other possibilities such as walnuts, roasted squash seeds (pepitos), roasted melon seeds, and cashews. In fact, it’s made out of whatever is available.

References
The Chronology of Ancient Nations, translation of Athar-ul-Bakiya of AlBîrûnî, translated by C. Edward Sachau; William H. Allen and Co., London, 1879; available on the net at google books.
A Persian Stronghold of Zoroastrianism [in Iran], by Mary Boyce, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1977.
Zoroastrians, Their Religious Beliefs and Practices, by Mary Boyce, Routledge and Kegan Paul, New York, 1979.

This page was published at pierce.yolasite.com/gahambar but Yola went out of business. It is now published here with a few minor corrections, and I am celebrating every year on my very own domain at piereligion.org, where things are going very well!!!

© 2007, last updated 7/17/2017, at piereligion.org/gahambar.html