I’m lucky enough to be celebrating Lohri for the second year in a row for another beautiful baby in the family and the question always pops up - what is Lohri? What do we do at Lohri and where does it come from ?
So I did some research because even though I’ve celebrated Lohri in Punjab, England & Perth I’ve learnt a little about what we do but I didn’t really know where it came from except for the easy guess - it’s a harvest festival. So here’s my run down;
Why the 13th of Jan? It marks the end of peak winter and start of the warmer weather in Punjab. This date was also believed to be the winter solstice therefor the longest night of the year - perfect for staying up and celebrating really.
Who celebrates it? This was a little grey it but basically anyone with something to be thank ful for in the past year which traditionally meant those who had had a family marriage in the last year or those who’d had a baby boy. Newly wed brides and newborn babies are given high importance at Lohri as they bring new luck and represent good fortunes.
Where does all the food fit in? Revri (sesame seed sweets), Gurh (refined sugar can), and Moongfali (peanuts)... January was the traditional time to sew sugar canes and Radishes also get a spot - as they are harvested between October & January. Traditionally Saag and Makhi dhi Roti (CornFlour Chaptti;s) are served because it was the season for it - seems pretty simple (and delicious!)
So what about the giant bonfires? In ancient times it was believed that the flames of the fires people lit took their messages straight to the sun - hence bringing the warmer weather. It is also believed to be a symbol of protection - for example it was used in the past to to keep animals away from villages/campsites.
In many cultures it’s seen as symbol of regeneration, transformation and energy
In india they throw sesame seeds, popcorn, puffed rice, sugarcane and other savoury snacks into the fire to fuel it as a sign of respect and appreciation - we also get to eat all of these traditional snacks at Lohri as well.
In my family everyone throws a handful of sesame seeds into the fire and you make a wish for the year.
That Lohri Geet: “Sunder Munderi Ye” - (think Veer Zaara) Behind this famous chant there is a folklore: Dulha Batti was a famous robber living in Punjab during the Reign of emperor Akhbar. He saved girls from being sold into the slave market, got them married and provided their dowries (some tales say he saved just one girl and treated her like a daughter, others say he saved many)
He became a hero of Punjab and is celebrated through the singing of this chant at Lohri Sunder and Mundri were said to be the names of two of the girls he saved.
I love Lohri and I think it’s a great festival to celebrate a new year, new beginnings and be grateful for the year that’s past! And whilst there is nothing like sitting around a bonfire in the cold in Punjab I think we do a pretty good job of celebrating overseas even with our fire bans (in Perth) or snow (in England).
Plus aside from a wedding it’s one of the few events we get to brush up on our Boliyan and bring out our Phulkari’s.
How does you family celebrate? And what other traditions are there for Lohri ? I’d love to hear!