Spring is almost upon us in Punjab with the end of Winter fast approaching. The harsh cold mornings of Winter are long gone in exchange for the cool soft breezes of Spring. Fields are glowing with golden mustard flowers in full bloom and vibrant green pastures of young wheat crops. It is a time when the people of Punjab will celebrate the passing of Winter Solstice, which typically falls on the 13th January. It is a way to commemorate the bountiful harvests and fertile lands. Lohri Festival is usually associated with the harvesting of the Winter Crops and as such is also considered to be a harvest festival. Farmers consider this day as the new financial year as it is when agricultural tenancies commence.
Fields of wheat crops in the countryside of Punjab
During the day of Lohri children will go door to door singing folk songs and in turn will receive traditional sweets and occasionally money. It is unfavourable to let the children leave empty handed. Where family's are welcoming newlyweds or new borns you should hand over additional treats. The sweets collected by the children are known as Lohri.
Lohri is a fun and joyous occasion and many will celebrate with much enthusiasm and gusto. Accordingly people will dress festively in their brightest traditional Punjabi attire. Which is the norm for most Punjabi celebrations throughout the year.
A large bonfire is prepared for the evening using dried pattys of cow manure which is an excellent source of fuel for fires. Later in the evening, when the sun sets the bonfires are lit in the harvested fields and in the front yards of houses or on the sides of streets. Lighting a bonfire is an ancient tradition of Lohri as fire is representational of the new life of the sun which begins to reinvigorate itself on Winter Solstice Day. Where family's are welcoming newlyweds or new born children they will usually host Lohri at their residence. Anyone is welcome to attend in the neighbourhood including passersby.
Celebrating Lohri around a bonfire with neighbourhood friends & family
Traditional sweets are exchanged and eaten at Lohri such as gachack which essentially is peanut brittle, jaggery a non-centrifugal sugar cane, crystallised sugar, peanuts and popcorn. These are all sweets traditionally made from the recent harvests. Many people will gather around the fire throwing peanuts into the flames whilst saying "Aadar aye dilather jaye" which means may honour come and poverty vanish. Which is a prayer to the fire god for a prosperous harvest. The sweet smell of caramelised sugar wafts from the fire as the dancing flames consume the sugar cane and sweets thrown.
Throwing peanuts into the fire
Singing and dancing form a vital part of celebrations. Traditional songs are sung whilst dancing the to the beat of the dhol. The women will dance the gidda whilst the men will dance the bhangra. Those who are not dancing will be gathered around the fire in candid conversation enjoying traditional sweets or a cup of tea. Winter harvest crops such as mustard leaves or spinach are typically served for dinner on Lohri.
Celebrations can go long into the early hours of the morning singing and dancing in the glow of the flickering flames. This festival is just another example of the Punjabi People's joy for life.