Lohri, pronounced almost as Lohrdi, is a Punjabi festival meant to be celebrated on the longest night of the year. It falls on January 13 (Mom's birthday :D).
Lohri originated in the villages of Punjab as a winter harvest festival. It signals the beginning of spring and the return of longer days. It's importance lies not only in celebration but in identifying when to harvest certain crops.
Celebrations involve a huge bonfire with singing and dancing. Moongphali (Peanuts) and popcorn are tossed into the fire as offerings. The origins of the festival boil down to a primitive fire worship, where fire signifies life, health and growth. Both Hindus and Sikhs celebrate the occasion. Although Hindus have few extra rituals--including building a replica lohri goddess out of cow dung--most other customs are the same.
A family who has had a birth (usually of a boy) or marriage within the last year typically hosts a lohri celebration at their home, or in a hall if in America. The bonfire lasts late into the night, revelers dance to bhangra and the women to giddha. The peanuts and popcorn crackle and explode in the fire, which is always fun to watch. The traditional meal served on Lohri is saag (spinach) and makki roti (maize chapatis), which is yummy any time of the year. :D
Singing songs related to Lohri is a custom not often practiced in America. In India, boys go door to door singing a rhyming, nonsensical song about the vagabond hero, Dulla Bhatti, in exchange for sweets. Refusing them is usually a bad omen for the coming year.
The hero, Dulla Bhatti, was a Muslim Robin Hood. He lived in the Punjabi countryside during Emperor Akbar's reign stealing from the rich and rescuing kidnapped damsels in distress. Upon their safe return the girls' families would not want to deal with their stained honor, so beloved Bhatti would arrange their marriages AND provide the dowry. So the rebel became a living legend.
More Dulla Bhatti