When we were in India, Makar Sankranti was just another festival at home. The thing that I remember most is eating the special Bong sweet that mom used to make for the occasion: Pathishapta (sweet crepes with cocomut filling and topped with condensed milk) and Pitha (fried sweet potato patties dipped in sweet syrup). At Siddhartha’s place, as in most Indian homes, it includes eating sweets made of Til (Sesame seeds) and Jaggery.
When we were moving to Bellevue, Washington, we were aware of the presence of a vibrant Indian community here, and yet did not expect too much. We have lived in other countries (across Europe, Asia and Australia) as well and have been part of a few Indian festival celebrations; found them pretty good. Yet, this celebration of Lohri in Bellevue was something else.
First of all, the sheer volume in which people participated with their entire families was huge. The priests made sure to include everyone in the aarti (prayers) and help explain the importance of the occasion. This has never happened in India for me! There was also the traditional Lohri bonfire right outside the temple, which was pretty neat for a chilly evening. As per tradition, people made rounds around the fire throwing popcorn and peanuts into the fire.
There were Temple volunteers managing the crowd and helping in distributing the meals. The dinner consisted of traditional Punjabi food: Makke ki roti, sarson da saag, rice and Punjabi Kadhi. The makke ki roti was prepared by several lady volunteers at their homes and the rest of the dishes were prepared by the organizers at the temple kitchen.
The only disappointment: I could not get my hands on the special dinner menu due to the huge gathering and my prior commitments to leave early 🙁
Lohri is a popular North Indian (Punjabi) festival which marks the winter solstice. Traditionally, it was celebrated as a harvest festival for Rabi crops. Rest of India mostly celebrates this day as Makar Sankranti, while parts of South India celebrate it as Pongal. The celebration of Lohri with a bonfire sets it apart from the other versions of the festival in India.
About Bellevue Hindu Temple
This is a temple in Bellevue. The Temple is a non-profit organization. Their Facebook page shows they celebrate almost all Indian Hindu festivals. This gives expat Indians keep in touch with their culture and people like me explore different Indian festivals in one place.
Disclaimer: This is a completely personal view and does not represent any organization or individual.