With the start of the new year comes the first celebrations in the form of the Harvest Festivals of India, celebrating the harvest of the winter crop throughout the country with the end of the winter solstice. This celebration is called by different names in different regions of India.
- Lohri is celebrated in Punjab, as well as in parts of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi.
- Pongal is celebrated in Tamil Nadu, as well as in parts of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and even Sri Lanka.
- Makar Sankranti is celebrated in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana,
As a child growing up in Chandigarh and Delhi, Lohri was usually a fun celebration with family and friends. We would light a bonfire in our driveway and usually neighbors would drop by for chit chat and some gajak and popcorn. As an immigrant living in the United States this festival almost lost its importance especially with apartment living, lighting a bonfire was simply out of the question. I will admit that there were a few years where I did hunt for a live fireplace in the numerous bars and hotels of Manhattan but alas live fire is a rare sighting. (If you know of any places that have a live fireplace do send me a note!)
As a mom, along with putting a lot of energy in celebrating the big Indian festival it is now equally important to mark every big and small celebration with my daughter. I see this as a critical teaching tool for her to understand her origins and family roots. These are a few ways in which I have been celebrating with my daughter and hope to spark some ideas for your celebrations as well:
Lighting the bonfire: This is tricky if you live in an apartment but is still the most important part of any Lohri celebration. If you can do a bonfire, make sure to make it festive and fun with loads of gajak, peanuts, and popcorn. Gather around the fire with your friends and family. Being overly cautious I would not recommend any live fire activities in an apartment setup but do follow along for a fun bonfire craft.
- Orange, Yellow and Brown Construction Paper
- Clear Plastic Cup
- LED Tealight (Optional)
Step 1: Do rough cuts of the Orange and Yellow sheets to mimic flames.
Step 2: Glue individual strips around the cup starting with the orange strips. Overlapping to cover the full cup.
Step 3: Repeat the same with the Yellow strips, gluing over the orange paper.
Step 4: Roll Brown Paper to create log shapes. Glue these on the bottom of the cup. Set aside for everything to dry.
Step 5 (optional): Add a tealight to the cup and watch your bonfire glow.
Making sweets and snacks: Let’s be honest, most of the excitement around celebrations is because of the food especially sweets. While I don’t always have the time to make sweets from scratch at home, if you can, do make sweets and snacks at home and ask your kids to help you in the process. They will enjoy the sweets and snacks, even more, when they make it on their own. I usually have a splurge moment at the Indian grocery store buying lots of revari, gajak, and peanuts for Lohri.
Planting your own harvest: Given that the celebration is all about crops and harvesting, make your child plant some seeds and watch them get in touch with the festival. This will help them learn about the importance of agriculture and farming in Indian culture. Another simple way this can be done is if you get them engaged in sprouting some daal or beans and see them get excited when they start to grow.
Arts and Craft: It should come as no surprise that crafts are the center focus in our home. I use coloring and crafts to not just keep my little one engaged but also as a tool to help support family time. For Lohri I generally focus on bonfire and kite crafts. Follow along on Instagram as I share these. Sitting with her while she does these activities is perfect for me to encourage conversations and for her to ask questions about traditions and significance of the festival. Use arts and craft time to talk to your little ones about the origins and meaning of the festival. I have put together some fun worksheets for kids to immerse themselves. These are perfect for young kids 4-7 years. While the coloring sheets are perfect for all ages, yes even grownups should join in too.
You can also use these free printables to setup a fun coloring station to keep the little ones busy! I hope these ideas help you celebrate Lohri with your kids and teach them about Indian celebrations and traditions. Happy Lohri!
Lohri is on January 14th and Pongal and Makar Sankranti is on January 15th this year.