Celebrations on the Eve of ….

Yomari Punhi and Christmas.

As it happens, Christmas Day and Yomari Punhi – a Newar festival that falls on the first full moon in December – falls on December 25th this year.  Christmas Day celebrates the birth of Christ and Yomari Punhi celebrates the end of the rice harvest – both cause for celebration and thanksgiving.

I am currently staying in the ground-floor flat of Nikita’s parent’s home in Bhaktapur as a trial run for where I may stay on my return to Nepal this summer.  It’s been so damn cold these past few weeks, I managed to pick up a sinus infection and so have been a tad under the weather.  But, I am healthy and fine now thanks to Sangeeta’s herbal teas (yuck but they work!), soups and foods to help with colds, steaming hot water to clear the sinuses and lots of tlc.  Just in time for the celebrations!  Dr Renee and Sapana from SIRC joined in too, and ended up staying overnight.

I was surprised to  see Christmas celebrations at the school next door earlier in the day, they had their own flavour of Christian hymns but of course got dancing as every Nepali celebrations does.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This one is for Marsang, they are performing a Tamang dance

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

These little students were more interested in checking out the neighbourhood beyond the school grounds than the Christmas programme!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A Christmas gift to me from Nishta, Nikita’s sister – isn’t it so pretty??

The oh so beautiful and talented Sangeeta set to work in the kitchen, first making 10 days supply of ghee (she hates to buy ghee as it is not pure enough) and also to get started on the yomari and the samay baji for us to eat later.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sangeeta, Nikita’s mother making her own ghee from blocks of butter.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The clearest ghee I ever saw!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Making chakhu, the molassas/sesame/coconut mixture for the yomari

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Another mixture for the yomari – a Newar speciality – called bara. Lentils are ground and mixed with spices, the dough pockets are filled with this mixture and steamed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A third mixture made with khuwa (like a ricotta cheese), melted with sweetened water and a few spices.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Then the dough for the yomari – boiled water into rice flour with a little ghee to soften it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The yomari are fashioned by grabbing a piece of dough, roll into a ball, then shape with a thing tail. Using the thumb, make a dent and with an oiled finger, slowly work the size of the hole without breaking the dough. It’s harder than it looks let me tell you!!  Then fill with mixture.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Once stuffed, slowly close the opening and make into a two-peaked top for chaku, one peak for khuwa and a triangle for bara. Mine did not look like this!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is Sangeeta making the large bara yomari that will end up in a triangle shape.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sealing the top of the bara-filled yomari

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I wonder which ones are mine?!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

December 25th is Yomari Punhi so Sangeeta and family will be offering a selection of the yomari to the gods. She also fashioned with image of the god Laxsmi which will be added to the offering.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And Lord Ganesh!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And not to be forgotten, a turtle

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here’s me trying my hand at making a few. Clearly Sangeeta can’t hold in the laughing at my efforts!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

While the yomari are steaming in the background. Sangeeta then started on the preparation of samay baji. her favourite Newar meal, and one of my favs too 🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Renee (r) and Sapana (m) concentrate on Sangeeta’s technique later in the evening.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And then they put their learning to the test!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Renee looking rather proud of her bara-filled yomari!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And Sapana finally mastered the art of closing the top of the yomari.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We weren’t quite sure what this little fellow was. A beluga whale?? Casper the Ghost?? Either way Sangeeta packed it for Renee this morning, it clearly did not make the cut for the family.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Nikita and her Dad Rajunder amused at our pathetic attempts to make yomari

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Then it was time to lay out the samay baji for everyone. Nikita did a creative job on the plates!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The table was readied – a selection of yomari to the fore, a plate of samay baji to the left, and a bottle of Sangeeta’s famous apple wine. What is not pictured is the lethal (alcholic) aila also made by Sangeeta! A celebratory feast, that is for sure.

Nishta candles

The candles (made by SIRC patients) were lit. Thanks to Nistha for this ensemble.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After much eating and consuming of wine, the dancing started. Here’s Dr Renee grooving it out!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After much fun and hilarity, the evening came to a close. But Nishta was ready to keep her dancing shoes on!

Happy Yomari Punhi to the Kayastha Family, and thank you so much for sharing your traditions with us – it is a special memory for me.
PC240016.JPG

 

 

About Kate Coffey

After 25+ years in the investment management industry, I packed in my job and spent 2014 living and working in Nepal and Bangladesh, and visited some other places in between. It took me on a journey I did not expect, had me fall in love with Nepal and it's people, and become inspired at the work of Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre (SIRC) located 2 hours east of Kathmandu in the Sanga foothills. Since 2014, I have continued my warm relationship with SIRC and worked closely with my friends there in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes to date. This blog initially started out as a travelogue of sorts to keep friends and family worldwide updated while I was off on my travels in 2014. Since then it has morphed into a life story of the many places I have lived and worked and of the wonderful people I have met along the way. I hope you enjoy.
This entry was posted in Nepal and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Celebrations on the Eve of ….

  1. Pingback: Celebrations on the Eve of …. | konviktion

  2. renu says:

    what a fun time kates! its a truly special experience. Merry Christmas!

  3. jgedye says:

    All the best to you and all your new friends. I hope their harvest was as good as my Christmas. did the rice fields survive enough for the next year? Hope so. I am visiting my brother & all are well and happy. Love to you. J

  4. Renée says:

    thank you Kate for keeping the records of wonderful moments of “our ” special nepalese christmas with wonderful Friends

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s