Lohri, the Punjabi harvest festival, falls on January 13, Sunday, this year. It is a celebration of the winter crop season. Sun deity, surya, is also remembered on this day. Lohri is observed just a night before Makar Sankranti, a festival that marks the end of the month with the winter solstice and beginning of longer days.
The festival is mainly celebrated by the Hindu and the Sikh communities and a holy bonfire is lit, which signifies passing of the winter solstice.
Lohri is a traditional welcome of longer days and sun’s journey to the northern hemisphere by Sikhs and Hindus in Punjab. It is an official restricted holiday in the state.
The ancient significance of the festival is both as a winter crop season celebration and a remembrance of the Sun deity. Lohri songs mention the Indian Sun god asking for heat and thanking him for his return. Other legends explain the celebration as a folk reverence for fire or the goddess of Lohri.
A bonfire is lit; popcorn, peanuts, rewari and gajak are distributed to all neighbours, friends and relatives. A feast, song and dance programme is arranged and everyone welcomes the good crop. Lohri holds special significance for the newly-married couple or the new-born child in the family as family members and relatives gather together to celebrate their first lohri. It is also traditional to eat “til rice” which is made by mixing jaggery, sesame seeds and rice on this day.
At many places in Punjab, groups of young and teenage boys and girls go around the neighborhood about 10 to 15 days before Lohri to collect logs for the Lohri bonfire. In some places, they also collect items such as grains and jaggery which are sold and the sale proceeds are divided among the group.