Celebrating the Harvest Festivals: Lohri & Sankranti
Harvest festivals are in full swing in India. Earlier in the week was Lohri, celebrated in Punjab, and yesterday was Makar Sankranti and Pongal. All three festivals celebrate the harvest and focus on burning off negative energy and starting the year fresh. While there are different specifics to how Lohri and Sankranti are celebrated in North (the kite festivals of Gujarat for example), and how Pongal is celebrated in the South, the spirit of the festivals is very much the same.
Some of the common themes (and foods) you’ll find at these festivals are til (sesame seeds), popcorn, and gur (jaggery). While til are often burned in the bonfire, they are also used to make til laddu and other treats. This year I decided to put a spin on the typical til recipes and whip up a batch of til & gur popcorn. It’s sort of my take on a caramel corn, but with an obligatory desi touch!
This is the type of party snack that requires minimal effort, but gets you a lot of compliments. Short of being super cautious while melting down the gur, this is a fail proof recipe. If you want to really wow your family; dress up the presentation. Here I’ve used some mirrored Christmas decorations as popcorn cones.
If you are a newlywed you might find yourself invited to (or hosting) a Lohri gathering this weekend, as many families celebrate newly married couples at this time of the year too! A fun a way to put a traditional spin on a modern tablescape; make a bonfire cake! Since Lohri and Sankranti are often associated with a winter bonfire, I took some inspiration from a camping themed birthday cake to create my Lohri cake. The cake itself is just a basic chocolate recipe, and the “bonfire” is created by melting crushed caramel candies.
The final touch to my festival fete – a smores bar! Hands down, this is why my kids, and any adult, would love Lohri. Since we can’t really set up a bonfire in our backyard, we roast marshmallows on our kitchen table and indulge in chocolate and graham cracker gooiness. I usually let them throw some til into the flame when we are all done too.
Photos by Aziz Dhamani