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.
This one is for Marsang, they are performing a Tamang dance
These little students were more interested in checking out the neighbourhood beyond the school grounds than the Christmas programme!
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.
Sangeeta, Nikita’s mother making her own ghee from blocks of butter.
The clearest ghee I ever saw!
Making chakhu, the molassas/sesame/coconut mixture for the yomari
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.
A third mixture made with khuwa (like a ricotta cheese), melted with sweetened water and a few spices.
Then the dough for the yomari – boiled water into rice flour with a little ghee to soften it.
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.
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!!
This is Sangeeta making the large bara yomari that will end up in a triangle shape.
Sealing the top of the bara-filled yomari
I wonder which ones are mine?!
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.
And Lord Ganesh!
And not to be forgotten, a turtle
Here’s me trying my hand at making a few. Clearly Sangeeta can’t hold in the laughing at my efforts!
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 🙂
Renee (r) and Sapana (m) concentrate on Sangeeta’s technique later in the evening.
And then they put their learning to the test!
Renee looking rather proud of her bara-filled yomari!!
And Sapana finally mastered the art of closing the top of the yomari.
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.
Nikita and her Dad Rajunder amused at our pathetic attempts to make yomari
Then it was time to lay out the samay baji for everyone. Nikita did a creative job on the plates!
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.
The candles (made by SIRC patients) were lit. Thanks to Nistha for this ensemble.
After much eating and consuming of wine, the dancing started. Here’s Dr Renee grooving it out!!
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.