Annual festivals are set with a special calendar, which consists of 354 days, 8 hours, 48 minutes. It is divided into 19-year cycle, among which 12 are ordinary and 7 are leap years with a thirteenth additional month. The month has 29 or 30 days.
Karaim liturgical year`s cycle starts with JYL BAŠY (the beginning of the year) celebrated on the first day of spring Artarych-aj (march-april). On the 15 th of the same month TYMBYL CHYDŽY (The Feast of Unleavened Bread) starts and goes on for a week.
Tymbyl chydžy (The Feast of Unleavened Bread) – one of the biggest holiday. After the prayer, on Eve the whole family sits at the table and listens to the extracts from The Bible. Later the God`s gifts: wine and round flat cakes (tymbyl) made for this occasion are consecrated. Apart from eggs, the main dish of the dinner is šišlik (lamb or veal steak). Also such dishes are served as pudding and cake, walnuts with honey, dried fruit soft drink. There is a tradition to visit friends the whole week and try tymbyl at every place, because the cake has different taste at every house.
Since Easter seven weeks have been counted until AFTALAR CHYDŽY (Pentecost).
Aftalar chydžy (Pentecost) – this holiday is always on Sunday – 50th day after Tymbyl chydžy` Sunday. During the ceremony Ten Commandments of God are recited, after the ceremony, at home a special dish is eaten - katlama - it is a curds cake which consists of seven layers (four layers of cake, three of curds) to symbolise seven weeks after Tymbyl chydžy. According to an old tradition it was allowed to swim after Pentecost.
On the first day of the seventh month Ajrychsy–aj (September-October) BYRHY KIUNIU (The Day of Trumpets) is celebrated. On the tenth day of the same month - BOŠATLYCH KIUNIU (The Day of Atonement).
Bošatlych kiuniu (the Day of Atonement) - on this day people should keep the fast and pray in kenesa for God to absolve sins from morning to twilight. Confession is the main feature of the holiday. Nobody speaks loudly about the sins, as the confession is general. Because only God, not even the highest priest can forgive. Before the mass people apologise everybody they know; parents should be apologised separately; the priest apologises the whole community.
The last holiday of the year is ALAČYCH KIUNIU (The Tabernacles) – is celebrated on the 15 th of Ajrychsy–aj and lasts for 8 days.
Among these main, biblical festivals of the liturgical year there are some other occasions of the liturgical ceremonies – fast (burunhu oruč or Avuz jabar-beginning of lent and All Saint`s Day; Ortančy oruč –middle of lent; Avuz ačar or Kurban – the end of lent or sacrifice), new moon day.
According to the principles of the Old Testament the Karaims start the day with sunrise as said: ”Light came at day and twilight at night, and evening and morning became – the first day” (Gen. 1:5).
The most prominent day of the week for the Karaims is Saturday (the 7th day of the week). It is determined by the Fourth commandment of God.
© Lithuanian Karaim Culture Society, 2016