The Punjabi festival of Lohri celebrates the end of winter and heralds the onset of spring. Falling in January, it marks the beginning of Earth’s gradual journey of moving towards the Sun. Hindus consider it an auspicious period (Uttarayan). Lohri invariably fall around mid January (January 13-14). This year it falls on Jan 14, 2012.
Lohri is generally marked by creation of a huge bonfire around which a family collects. January is the time when North India reels under a chilling winter, hence the significance of fire as it symbolises the coming of spring. It is also the time when farming season will start afresh–fresh saplings will be sown with wistful prayers for a fresh harvest. Hence it is also the time for folk songs.
Like all other festivals, this one is also about family. The family and often friends all gather around the bonfire and sing songs. Lohri is about new beginnings and about worshiping fire.
Traditionally peanuts, phuliyan (popcorns), til, gur (jaggery), revdi and gachak are thrown into the raging bonfire, as the gathering circles the fire with merriment and joy. The Lohri dinner traditionally consists of the seasonal specialty, sarson ka saag and makki ki roti.
As Lohri is about new beginnings, the first Lohri of a new born and that of a new bride is very significant and celebrated with great gusto. The coy new bride is decked up in bridal finery and all family and friends give her gifts which invariably mean clothes and jewellery.
A new born baby’s first Lohri is too a big affair with gifts and good wishes flowing in for the child in good measure.
Though Lohri is a Punjabi festival, when Earth’s journey towards the Sun (that culminates during the summer solstice) is celebrated, the whole of India explodes into festivities with festivals like Pongal in Tamilnadu, Sukarat in Madhya Pradesh, Uttarayan, Bihu and Makar Sankranti.
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