5 Secrets to Springtime in January, thanks to the Hindu Harvest Festival

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You know that old saying, “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere”? Well the same can be said of springtime. Even while ice and and snow pummel the northern hemisphere and hot days sizzle in the southern, there are plenty of people celebrating springtime in India and other South Asian countries… Yes, in January. After the wild hair seventy degree day we had a couple of days ago, Ava and I were ready to say goodbye to winter, too.

So how do we get there?

This January 14 marks Makar Sankranti, the Hindu Harvest Festival.

While Makar Sankranti is intended to celebrate the winter solstice and last year’s good harvest,  it also celebrates the arrival of spring. This is one of those “looking forward” to warmth, while looking back with appreciation.

To Hindus, the Sun stands for knowledge, spiritual light and wisdom. Makara Sankranti signifies that we should turn away from the darkness of delusion in which we live, and begin to enjoy a new life with bright light within us to shine brighter and brighter. We should gradually begin to grow in purity, wisdom and knowledge even as the Sun does from the Day of Makara Sankranti. (source)

The celebration is on January 14 because the days are (finally!) getting longer – the perfect time to celebrate light.

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Every region has their own unique ways of celebrating – some even spread this BIG festival over as many as four days (each day broken down into own smaller, named festivals). Either way, the key is to celebrate!

Here are a five quick ways you and your family can help bring in the spring with the spirit of Makar Sankranti:

1. Bag it

These 'tilguls', traditional marathi laddoos eaten on Makar Sankranti day. Photo by Saloni Desai.

These ’tilguls’, traditional marathi laddoos eaten on Makar Sankranti day. Photo by Saloni Desai.

Sugar cane is an important crop in Southern India, from which most sweet things come. Desserts such as “tilgul” (above) are made with sesame seeds in a caramelized cardamom spice mixture. Here’s a nice recipe. Or, if you’re in a hurry try this microwave recipe (for those who still have one!). When you’re done, simply fill small bags with the goody.

Give the bag to a loved one while saying, “Eat this sweet sesame and speak sweetly to me.”

2. Go fly a kite

Photo of children flying kites from the rooftops in India. Photo by Yusuke Kawasaki.

Photo of children flying kites from the rooftops in India. Photo by Yusuke Kawasaki.

And when I say “Go fly I kite,” I mean it in the happy-go-lucky way Mary Poppins did. Up to the highest height. The children above certainly know what I mean – they climbed a rooftop!

3.  Burn it

Build a bonfire and throw rice and sugar cane into the flames. Or toss your old, worn clothes on there… or any old junk that will hold you back from a spring-filled life, full of brightness.

For Indian Festival Bhogi, the festival of bonfire (Celebrated mainly in South India) is the first day of Pongal (January). Photo by Ravichandrae.

For Indian Festival Bhogi, the festival of bonfire (Celebrated mainly in South India) is the first day of Pongal (January). Photo by Ravichandrae.

4. Chalk it

This is the tradition Ava and I decided to try.

The idea is to welcome the dawn of spring with  chalk art in front of your home. Traditionally the “chalk” would be made of a paste from last year’s rice grains. In the morning, the sunlight falls on the drawings – a harbinger of good things.

Makar Sankranti in India. Photo by YVSREDDY.

Makar Sankranti in India. Photo by YVSREDDY.

Colorful flowers, birds, leaves and other shapes can be linked to make intricate patterns.

On the morning of Makar Sankranti the whole neighborhood glows brightly with the designs.

A woman drawing Muggu (coloured patterns) in front of their home during the Sankranthi Festival. Photo by  Mr. Chidambar Rao Bhukya.

A woman drawing Muggu (coloured patterns) in front of their home during the Sankranthi Festival. Photo by Mr. Chidambar Rao Bhukya.

5. Flower petal art

For the overachievers in the bunch (you know who you are), add colorful flower petals in the chalk outlines. Pumpkin flowers make for an amazing, golden, sun-filled sight!

Sankranti Muggu with flowers at Nizampet, Rangareddy district. Photo by Adityamadhav83.

Sankranti Muggu with flowers at Nizampet, Rangareddy district. Photo by Adityamadhav83.

So that’s what I’m thinking about, even as I scramble to finish up my memoir over the next couple of months: spring, spring, spring.

May we all grow in lightness and joy.

Peace.

And happy Sankranti Muggu.

P.S. Don’t let perfection be the enemy of the good! Just get out there and have fun… while you draw, talk about bringing light and love into the home and heart. A kite is a good quick fix, too – if you have one!

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P.P.S. I’d love to hear how you plan to celebrate the arrival of spring…

What’s that? It’s too soon? Well, let me know why. Is it the skiing? The shoveling? What about those icy cold fingers?

;)

 

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Comments

  1. Yay! A new post! I’ve missed them! Spring…hmmm…it feels very far away as we are in the season of illness and misery in our home. It started with whopping cough, now we are pretty sure we’ve added the flu and we also had a little one tumble on Sunday and break his clavicle! So with all the fevers and the hacking spring feels very far off indeed! It is my favorite season though and I’m looking forward to it…although right now I’d rather skip all of them and head straight for summer, sandy beaches and a nice rum punch in my hand! :-) Happy Sankranti Muggu Sasha!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Oh no…! I hope everyone feels better really soon!! And those beaches with a rum punch – yes, that sounds awesome.

  2. Ok…that’s it…this really nice post has made up my mind…time to celebrate…

  3. TILGUL remind me of the sesame-peanut butter-honey “candies” we used to make…with a few peanuts thrown in for texture (or use whole peanut peanut butter)

  4. I love spring. It is the best time of the year. Not to hot, not to cold. But here in the southern hemisphere we are heading into the cool rather than the warm. Wet season here we come. Those sesame sweets look delicious. I hope I can make them soon.

  5. We decided to take a chance on our unpredictable winter weather and planted peas and radishes outdoors – the rashes have sprouted already! We also started seeds for warm-weather veg indoors under a grow light. For us, nothing beats back the winter cold like planning/starting the summer veggie garden!

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