Lohri marks the end of harvesting season and peak winters. According to the English calendar, it falls on 13th January every year.
Lohri is an extremely popular cold season festival celebrated in Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Jammu and other parts of Northern India with great pomp and show. Preparations to celebrate the festival begins much before the actual day. As per the customs and traditions, with the onset of day, children go from door to door singing traditional folk songs. In return, they are given sweets like till, gur, rewri, gajjak, moongfali (peanuts), phulle (popcorns) and money in the form of Lohri. With the setting of Sun, a huge bonfire with dry branches and twigs is made – the bigger the better. Come evening, this bonfire is lit with people around singing and dancing to the tunes of Punjabi folk songs and famous Bollywood dance numbers. Famous dances like bhangda and gidda add to the festivity. The fire indicates the spark of life and prayers are said for goodwill and abundant crops. Despite icy wind, the festive mood of Lohri keeps its warmth owing to its bonfire. Seasonal goodies like peanuts, sesame seeds, gajjak, rewri, puffed rice and popcorns find their way into this fire, as an offering to the Sun God, the giver of life. The act of feeding food to the fire assumes massive significance on this day. It is believed that these offerings are thrown in the sparkling flames to effectively impress the Gods and thus seek blessing for yourself and family. Then Prasad of these winter goodies is distributed among all the people gathered around the bonfire. The munching of these perks forms an integral part of the celebration. During this festival, people also give gifts to their loved ones as a portrayal of their love and affection. Lohri celebrates the enthusiasm people share.
The festival actually symbolises the attachment of the people with Mother Nature as this festival denotes the harvesting of the Rabi crops. All the farmers get together in order to thank God for blessing them with a wonderful crop. People residing in Punjab attach a great significance to Lohri, the festival of feasts and foods. In Punjab, wheat is the main winter crop, which is sown in October and harvested in March or April. In January, the fields come up with the promise of a golden harvest and farmers celebrate Lohri during this rest period before the cutting and gathering of crops. The purpose of Lohri harvest ceremony is to thank the Almighty for his care and protection. Thus the jubilation at a bountiful harvest becomes the reason for the celebration of this festival. It is one of the most popular harvest festivals of Punjab, with fairs held at various places. People come out of their houses to sing, dance and greet one and all. They prepare large quantities of food and drink and make merry throughout the day and the night. Therefore everyone, especially in Punjab, looks forward to this auspicious day.
Lohri holds special importance when a special occasion like marriage or childbirth takes place in the family. The first Lohri of a newlywed bride and a new-born child is considered very propitious and to be a great occasion to celebrate. Family members and friends are invited for feast and exchange of gifts as a part of a celebration. The families of the newly-wedded couple gather around the fire wearing their best, often new embellished clothes. The newly married woman wears new bangles, a heavy traditional new outfit and applies mehndi on her hand. The husband also dresses up in a new traditional attire with a colourful turban. The new bride is presented with beautiful new clothes and jewellery by her parents-in-law. Her parents also gift her and her husband expensive gifts and sweet delicacies.
The first Lohri of a new-born is also a special occasion in which all family and friends join to celebrate. The grand event is observed at the parental home of the baby. All the guests bring gifts for the child and the new mother. The baby’s grandparents give special gifts to the baby in the form of clothes, toys, cash and others. The child’s maternal grandparents also give abundant gifts to the child and the new mother. They give gifts to the child’s paternal relatives also. It is a moment of gigantic bliss and gaiety.
Lohri is not just a festival, it is a symbol of life, new beginnings, hopes and promises. It gives you an opportunity to sit around a bonfire and enjoy in this chilly weather with your family and friends. Mostly celebrated amongst Punjabis as a cultural celebration of winter solstice, Lohri is an exceedingly auspicious day as it celebrates fertility and life.
Wish you all a very Happy and Joyful Lohri. May this festival burn all sorrows and gift you with immense happiness.