Tuesday, January 13, 2015


In the Punjab, in northern India, they celebrate Lohri, a harvest festival. It is believed the festival was originally celebrated on the winter solstice, but now it is celebrated on January 13. The harvest is of the rabi crops, which are sown in winter and harvested in spring. Sugarcane is one crop that is harvested in January. The day after Lohri, Maghi, is the financial new year. Confusion over winter solstice and Lohri has to do with the way the Punjabi calendar is calculated.

On Lohri, children go from door to door singing songs about a character much like Robin Hood and demanding *loot*. People give them popcorn, sesame seeds, sugar, peanuts, and even money. It is considered back luck to turn the kids away empty handed.

According to lohrifestival.org, "the central character of most Lohri songs is Dulla Bhatti, a Muslim highway robber who lived in Punjab during the reign of Emperor Akbar. Besides robbing the rich, he rescued Hindu girls being forcibly taken to be sold in the slave market of the Middle East. He arranged their marriages to Hindu boys with Hindu rituals and provided them with dowry. Understandably, though a bandit, he became a hero of all Punjabis. So every other Lohri song has words to express gratitude to Dulla Bhatti."

In the evening, people gather around bonfires and throw popcorn and sesame seeds into the fire. They shout  "Aadar aye dilather jaye" (May honor come and poverty vanish!) Songs and prayers are offered for a good harvest and prosperity.

(image from Wikipedia)

Lohri is an important day for newlyweds and newborn babies, for reasons of fertility. It is a day to dress in your finest, get together with family, and have a fancy dinner.

So today, get together with your family, plan a big potluck, have a bonfire (or, in my case, either a nice fire in the fireplace, or a small fire outside in the firepit). Sing songs. Treasure these moments.

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