As narrated by Grandpa and edited by Bibha Mukherjee
Lohri is one of the most zestful festivals of Punjab. It always falls on the 13th day of January, a day before the Makar Srankant which is the first day of Pongal. Lohri, like Pongal, is essentially a festival of the agriculturists but does not denote harvest. It is the celebration of bountiful crop standing in the field. It is being observed in the Punjab for centuries. The Punjab means the land of five rivers (Ravi, Jhelum, Chenab, Satlej and Beas). After partition of India, all have gone to Pakistan except Sutlej and Beas.
In Punjab, wheat is the main winter crop, which is sown in October and harvested in March or April. In January, the delight of the farmers knows no bound when they see the fields coming up with the promise of gold (the ripe wheat fields look golden in color), the result of their intense toil and sweat. They celebrate Lohri during this rest period before work in the fields again requires their attention.
In January the weather is very cold. What better way to enjoy than to light a bonfire near the village square, which forms the essence and the focal point of Lohri. A community spirit is maintained during the Lohri festival and everyone tries to participate setting aside his or her differences.
The bonfire is the deity (Agni) and offerings are made while making the Parikrama (circling) around the bonfire, shouting "Aadar aye dilather jaye" (may honor come and poverty be banished). Bhangra, dance by men, begins after the offering to the bonfire. Dancing continues till late night with new groups joining with the beat of drums. Food served during Lohri is non-vegetarian and no hard drinks are served.
Before and during Lohri, women get invariably very busy collecting and preparing edibles. Children go door-to-door asking for donation both in kind and money to celebrate the festivity on the 14th January (Sankrant).
Traditionally, women do not join Bhangra. They hold separate bonfire in their courtyard, do the circling (parikrama) with graceful Gidda dance.
The first Lohri celebrated by a new bride or a newborn represents a grand occasion and immediate family members are invited for feast and exchange of gifts. After the party, Lohri is celebrated with traditional dancing and singing around the bonfire.