Lohri is usually celebrated around the 13th January and has always been a significant part of Punjabi culture. The history of Lohri is not certain, as there are many variations on where and why the festival was first celebrated. The general consensus is that Lohri marks the end of the winter months and is used to celebrate the harvest of Rabi crops (Rabi is Arabic for Spring).
The main focus of Lohri is the lighting of bonfires at sunset in homes around the villages of Punjab. Family and friends gather to celebrate the festival by singing folk songs around the fire, welcoming the Spring months and asking the fire god of Agni for health, wealth and prosperity. Lohri is also said to celebrate fertility and the joy of life so households that have had newborn’s or marriage will be the focus of the evenings celebrations.
There are many other festivities that go on through the day as a build up to the evening’s events;
- Youngsters will gather in groups to go from door to door singing traditional folk songs about Lohri, in the hope that they will gather gifts of food and sometimes even money. It is considered non-auspicious not to offer visitors to the door gifts on this festive day.
- Most of the folk songs centre around a character from the Mogul era called Dulha Bhutti. He was the Punjabi equivalent of Robin Hood; taking form the rich and giving to the poor. Although he was an outlaw, his tale of bravery and compassion for the poor lives on through folk stories and songs which celebrate his life and achievements. One of these tales tells of Dhulha (who was a converted Muslim) rescuing a young Hindu girl from the clutches of slave traders and adopting her as his own until a time when he was able to arrange her marriage. This is a great advocate for religious harmony.
- Like most other Punjabi festivals Lohri culminates in a huge gathering of friends and family where food and drink are enjoyed in abundance. All of this food is prepared during the day and homes are decorated with Rangoli.
- The day ends with a meal that usually consists of Sarson Da Saag (Spinage), Makki di Roti (Chapatti made of corn flour) and Rau Di Kheer (the Punjabi equivalent of Rice pudding).