One of the big Punjabi festivals occurs today in India : Lohri festival. It is one of the popular Hindu and Sikh festivals which is celebrated with traditional passion and enthusiasm in most parts of India. Lot of people believe that the festival was originally celebrated on winter solstice day, being the shortest day and the longest night of the year.
There are various perception to the celebrations of this festival. Some say that this marks the departure of the winter season while others say that it is the longest winter night. Many others say that it is a day marked to pray for the greatest harvest of grains in the coming year and then there are others who celebrate it to mark the first day of a new year. Whatever the conception may be, it is one of the most wonderful time of the beginning of a year for people of India.
In Some villages of Punjab, children go from door to door singing and demanding the Lohri ‘loot’ in the form of money and eatables like til (sesame) seeds, peanuts or sweets like gajak, rewri, etc. on Lohri day. They sing in praise of Dulha Bhatti, a Punjabi avatar of Robin Hood who robbed the rich to help the poor.
It is usually celebrated on 13th of January but sometimes the date varies. The festival is especially significant for the new-born and newly-married couples in Punjabi families. In the evening, with the setting of the sun, huge bonfires are lit in the front yards of houses and people gather around the rising flames, circle around (parikrama) the bonfire and throw puffed rice, popcorn and other munchies into the fire. After the parikrama, people meet friends and relatives, exchange greetings and gifts, and distribute prasad (offerings made to god). Winter savories are served around the bonfire with the traditional dinner of makki-di-roti (multi-millet hand-rolled bread) and sarson-da-saag (cooked mustard herbs).
In the South of India, Lohri is called Pongal festival and is celebrated just after the Punjab one by Tamil people.