13 January 2015 :: Lohri is a popular Punjabi festival, celebrated by people from the Punjab region of South Asia. The origins of Lohri are many and link the festival to Punjab region. Many people believe the festival was originally celebrated on winter solstice day, being the shortest day and the longest night of the year, and accordingly Lohri commemorates the Winter Solstice.
Lohri is traditionally associated with the harvest of the rabi crops. The traditional time to harvest sugarcane crops is January and therefore, Lohri is seen by some to be a harvest festival. The general time to sow sugarcane is January to March and the harvesting period is between December to March with a 12 to 18 month cycle. Sugarcane products such as gurh and gachak are central to Lohri celebrations, as are nuts which are harvested in January. The other important food item of Lohri is radish which can be harvested between October and January.
Punjabi farmers see the day after Lohri (Maghi) as the financial new year. It is a very important day. The farmers celebrate Lohri as such. New agricultural tenancies commence on Lohri and rents are collected on this day.
During the day, children go from door to door singing folk songs. These children are given sweets and savories, and occasionally, money. Turning them back empty-handed is regarded inauspicious.
The collections gathered by the children are known as Lohri and consist of til, gachchak, crystal sugar, gur ( jaggery), moongphali ( peanuts) and phuliya or popcorn. Lohri is then distributed at night during the festival. Till, peanuts, popcorn and other food items are also thrown into the fire.The bonfire ceremony differs depending on the location in Punjab. In some parts, a small image of the Lohri goddess is made with gobar (cattle dung) decorating it, kindling a fire beneath it and chanting its praises. In other parts, the Lohri fire consists of cow dung and wood with no reference to the Lohri goddess.
The bonfire is lit at sunset in the main village square. People toss sesame seeds, gur, sugar-candy and rewaries on the bonfire, sit around it, sing and dance till the fire dies out. Some people perform a prayer and go around the fire. This is to show respect to the natural element of fire. It is traditional to offer guests til, gachchak, gur, moongphali (peanuts) and phuliya or popcorn.