Lohri is a popular Punjabi festival, celebrated by people from the Punjab region of South Asia.The origins of Lohri are many and link the festival to Punjab region.Many people believe the festival commemorates the passing of the winter solstice as Lohri was originally celebrated on winter solstice day,being the shortest day and the longest night of the year.
Lohri marks the end of winter on the last day of Paush, and beginning of Magha (around January 12 and 13), when the sun changes its course. It is associated with the worship of the sun and fire and is observed by all communities with different names, as Lohri is an exclusively Punjabi festival.
Some believe that Lohri has derived its name from Loi, the wife of Sant Kabir, for in rural Punjab Lohri is pronounced as Lohi. Others believe that Lohri comes from the word 'loh', a thick iron sheet tawa used for baking chapattis for community feasts. Another legend says that Holika and Lohri were sisters. While the former perished in the Holi fire, the latter survived. Eating of til (sesame seeds) and rorhi (jaggery) is considered to be essential on this day. Perhaps the words til and rorhi merged to become tilorhi, which eventually got shortened to Lohri. Ceremonies that go with the festival of Lohri usually comprises of making a small image of the Lohri goddess with gobar (cattle dung), decorating it, kindling a fire beneath it and chanting its praises.
The final ceremony is to light a large bonfire at sunset, toss sesame seeds, gur, sugar-candy and rewaries in it, sit round it, sing, dance till the fire dies out. For Punjabis, this is more than just a festival; it is also an example of their love for celebrations. Lohri celebrates fertility and the joy of life. On the Lohri day everyone gets into their best clothes and is festive. Gifts of sweets are exchanged. The courtyard and rooms of the house are swept and sprinkled with water. As the sun sets, all people dress up in their best and gather around the bonfire. Newly wed ones wear jewelery. The new-born are given little combs to hold. The a burning fagot is brought from the hearth and sets the Lohri bonfire alight.
As the flames leap up, the girls throw sesame seed in them and bow. Winter savories are served around the bonfire with the traditional dinner of makki-ki-roti (multi-millet hand-rolled bread) and sarson-ka-saag (cooked mustard herbs). In the morning, children go from door to door singing songs in praise of Dulha Bhatti, a Punjabi version of Robin Hood who robbed from the rich and helped the poor. These visitors are usually given money as they knock on their neighbor’s doors. In the evening, people gather around bonfires, throw sweets, puffed rice, and popcorn into the flames, sing popular folk songs and exchange greetings.