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Zoroastrianism has numerous festivals and holy days, all of which are bound to the Zoroastrian calendar. The Shahenshahi and Kadmi variants of the calendar do not intercalcate leap years and hence the day of the Gregorian calendar year on which these days are celebrated shifts ahead with time. The third variant of the Zoroastrian calendar, known as either Fasli (in India) or Bastani (in Iran), intercalcates according to Gregorian calendar rules and thus remains synchronous with the seasons. For details on the differences, see Zoroastrian calendar.
The forerunner of all modern Zoroastrian calendars is the system used to reckon dates in the Persian Empire. In 539 BCE, Persia's rulers conquered Babylon, and soon afterwards - at least by the 4th century BCE - adopted the Babylonian method of reckoning months: 12 months each containing 30 days. The Zoroastrian calendar follows the Babylonian in relating the seventh and other days of the month to Ahura Mazda.
The seasonal festivals, called gahambars (meaning "proper season"), occur six times a year. Due to the peculiarities of the Shahenshahi and Kadmi variants of the Zoroastrian calendar, in those variants the seasonal festivals are actually celebrated many months in advance and are therefore said to reflect the six "primordial creations" of Ahura Mazda, otherwise known as the Amesha Spentas. The six festivals are:
- Maidyozarem Gahambar ('mid-spring' feast)
- Maidyoshahem Gahambar ('mid-summer' feast)
- Paitishahem Gahambar (feast of 'bringing in the harvest')
- Ayathrem Gahambar ('bringing home the herds')
- Maidyarem Gahambar ('mid-year'/winter feast)
- Hamaspathmaidyem Gahambar (feast of 'all souls', literally 'coming of the whole group')
Each of these festivals is celebrated over five days.
Eleven divinities of the Zoroastrian pantheon have both a day-of-the-month and a month-of-the-year dedicated to them. A special Yasna or Jashan (meaning "worship", "oblation") service is then held in their honor on those day/month intersections.
Six of these Jashan days are dedicated to the six Ameshaspands (Amesha Spentas). These six days are respectively:
- Jashan of Ardavisht, celebrating fire and all other luminaries. 3rd day of the 2nd month (April 22)
- Jashan of (K)Hordad, celebrating the waters. 6th day of the 3rd month (May 25)
- Jashan of Amurdad, celebrating plants. 7th day of the 5th month (July 25)
- Jashan of Shahrevar, celebrating metals and minerals. 4th day of the 6th month (August 21)
- Jashan of Bahman, celebrating animal creation. 2nd day of the 11th month (January 16)
- Jashan of Spendarmad, celebrating the earth. 5th day of the 12th month (February 18)
In parentheses are the Fasli/Bastani calendar dates.
Five name-day feasts are dedicated to other yazatas with a name/month dedication:
- Farwardigan, celebration of the Fravashis on the 19th day of the 1st month (April 8).
- Tiregan, celebration to Tishtrya, the rains, on the 13th day of the 4th month (July 1).
- Abanagan, celebration of Apas, the waters, in particular of Aredvi Sura Anahita. It falls on the 9th day of the 8th month (October 26).
- Adargan, celebration of Atar, fire. Adargan falls on the 10th day of 9th month (November 24).
- Mehregan, celebrating Mithra on the 16th day of the 7th month (October 2).
The remaining name/month dedication is to Dae "Creator", whose jashan is celebrated on each of the four days (1st, 8th, 15th, 23rd day of the month) that are dedicated to the Creator Ahura Mazda. Each of those four days is called Jashan of Dadvah ("Creator").
Other holy days
Other holy days include:
- Nouruz, New Year's Day. In the Fasli/Bastani variant of the Zoroastrian calendar, this day is always the day of the spring equinox (nominally falling on March 21).
In the Shahenshahi and Kadmi calendars, which do not account for leap years, the New Year's Day has drifted ahead by over 200 days. These latter two variants of the calendar, which are only followed by the Zoroastrians of India, celebrate the spring equinox as Jamshed-i Nouroz, with New Year's Day then being celebrated in July/August as Pateti (see below).
- Pateti, "(day) of penitence" (from patet "confession," hence also repentance and penitence). This is actually a day of introspection, and originally occurred on the last day (or on the last 5 days) of the calendar year. For reasons related to single day occasions being observed over six days, (the last day of) Pateti came to fall on (the first day of) the New Year's Day celebrations, and in India (Shahenshahi/Kadmi calendars) came to be "celebrated" on New Year's Day itself. Although the name has been retained, Pateti is no longer a day of introspection.
- Sadeh, a mid-winter festival traditionally celebrated 100 days (hence sadeh) after the first day of winter, or alternatively, 50 days (100 days and nights) before New Year's Day. Because this festival involves building a bonfire, it is also called Adar-Jashan.
- Zartosht No-Diso, the death anniversary of Zarathushtra, which is celebrated on the 11th day (Khorshed) of the 10th month (Dae). In the seasonal calendar, Zoroaster's death anniversary falls on December 26.
- Khordad Sal, which celebrates the birth anniversary of Zoroaster. It falls on the 6th day ([K]hordad) of the 1st month (Farvardin). In the seasonal calendar, Zoroaster's birth anniversary falls on March 26.
- Boyce, Mary (ed. & trans.). Textual Sources for the Study of Zoroastrianism. University of Chicago Press, 1984, p. 19-20.
- The festival days in the Fasli/Bastani variants of the Zoroastrian calendar for 2007.
- The festivals in detail: