Lohri is celebrated on January 13 to commence the winter harvest, traditionally associated with the harvest of the Rabi crops (crops planted in Autumn and harvested in winter, such as wheat and barley). The people of Punjab and Haryana also celebrate Lohri to signify the end of winter and celebrate the beginning of warm weather.
During the day, children in Punjab go door to door receiving treats and money from neighbours – Lohri mangan (similar to Halloween in North America) and singing Lohri songs. In the evening bonfires are lit as part of the celebration. People throw sesame seeds, popcorn, oil and peanut shells into the fire while making wishes. They sing traditional folk songs and perform Giddha and Bhangra (traditional Punjabi folk dancing) around the fire. The fire symbolizes the sun.
Another element of Lohri is the celebration of new beginnings. Families celebrate the birth of a child or a new marriage by throwing a party for friends and family. Like most Punjabi celebrations this involves lots of food, singing and dancing. Punjabis who live abroad celebrate Lohri in this manner.
An interesting component of Lohri is the connection to Dulha Bhatti. Dulha Bhatti is a Punjabi legend similar to Robin Hood. He was known for stealing from the rich and giving to poor. He also rescued Hindu girls who were kidnapped to be sold into slavery and arranged their marriages to suitable boys. He even provided the dowry.
This legendary character is commemorated in the traditional songs of Lohri which we still hear today.
How to throw a Lohri Party
What you need:
- Fire wood
- Fire pit
- Sesame seeds
- Radhian (sweetened balls of sesame seeds)
Time of day:
How It’s Done:
- Invite relatives and friends to your home for dinner
- Decorate your house with phulkaris, dupattas or saris draping them to create a stylish Punjabi décor
- On a beautifully decorated table, have peanuts, radhian and other traditional Punjabi sweets and savouries for your guests to enjoy
- Make sure peanuts and radhian are provided to all guests throughout the party as they are a staple of the Lohri celebration
- When guests arrive, light a bon fire outside
- Provide guests with peanuts shells and sesame seeds to toss into the fire
- Remind your guests to make a wish while they toss items into the fire
- Sing folk songs together and clap and participate during Giddha and Bhangra or dance to your favourite Indian music
- At the end of the party, send a bag full of peanuts and radhian home with each family
Bachai lokh, your Aunty recommends celebrating Lohri with your family and friends to mark any auspicious occasion. Unfortunately, over the years the Punjabi community has begun celebrating Lohri for the birth of sons only. This is not the reason our ancestors celebrated Lohri in India, but has become the norm. Help your Auntyji change this by encouraging your family to celebrate Lohri for the birth of our daughters too. We all know that any birth is a reason for celebration!