Yomari Punhi -meaning full moon of yomari-one of the popular Newar festivals is observed every year during the full moon of December.A yomari is a confection of rice-flour (from the new harvest)dough shaped like fig and filled with brown cane sugar and sesame seeds, which is then steamed. This delicacy is the chief item on the menu during the post-harvest celebration of Yomari Punhi. On this full moon day, people of the Kathmandu Valley offer worship to Annapurna, the goddess of grains, for the rice harvest. Groups of kids go neighborhood to beg yomari cakes from housewives in the evening. Sacred masked dances are performed in the villages of Hari Siddhi and Thecho at the southern end of the Valley to mark the festival.
The Newars, upon munching a mouthful of yomari, a sweet dish, await the end of their four days of devotion of god, following which they will be blessed with wealth, according to their belief. The people prepare yomaris, in the form of gods and goddesses such as Kumar, Ganesh, Laxmi and Kuber. In keeping with the culture, parents bless children from two to twelve years who are then offered yomaris. The children on the other hand perform the customary song and dance and ask for food and other gifts from the elders during the festival.
The festival is said to have started from panchal nagar(present day Panauti). Myth has it that Suchandra and Krita, a married couple, first experimented with fresh yield of rice from their field. And what took shape turned out came to be known as yomari. The new delicacy was eventually distributed among the villagers. As the food was liked by all, the bread was named yomari, which literally means ‘tasty bread’. The myth further states that on the same day the couple offered the god of wealth, Kuber, the new delicacy, who was passing by in a disguise. Following this Kuber disclosed , his real identity and blessed the couple with wealth. He also declared that whoever will prepare yomari in the form of gods and goddesses on the full moon of December and observe four days of devotion to god, will get rid of poverty. The festival is celebrated on the second day when prayers are offered during which the yomaris are stored and not eaten on that very day. On the fourth and the final day the people belonging to the Newar community consume the sweet bread as a gift from gods and this practice also marks the end of the festival.
Here is a great video on how to make Yomari – Sabita Somname and Sapana Sharma. Video was filmed in the Northern California. Sabita is the wife of famous Nepali Chef in the San Francisco Bay Area – Narayan Somname. They own a Michelin reviewed restaurant – Yeti Restaurant in the Sonoma Valley.