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Makar Sankranti is a festival about food and the family. It involves different, fun-filled activities. This year, make the new beginnings for your family a more joyous ones and see how you can involve your kids in the festivities
Makar Sankranti, celebrated on January 14 every year, marks the end of short winter days and the beginning of longer summer days. Traditionally, it's a time for farmers to rejoice the end of harsh winters and look forward to a bountiful harvest. The festival celebrates new beginnings and positivity.
After being cooped up all winter, it's a time when friends and families come together to celebrate good times and good food. Makar Sankranti, celebrated in various forms across India, is an important festival not only because it combines our history with culture, but also is symbolic of new beginnings, hope and positivity. It is an occasion for the family to come together, cook a wholesome traditional meal and tell family stories of the past and present, over a bonfire.
Shraddha Shukla, a homemaker and a parent of two, says that Makar Sankranti has always been a special day for her.
"As a child, I used to get very excited as the day of the festival got nearby. While it meant waking up earlier than usual and taking a bath, we didn't mind as we had so much to look forward to. I especially loved the bonfire parties, we used to go to our neighbor's house. That was the highlight of my day," she says. And while she can't do a bonfire in her apartment complex, she involves her children in the other traditions. "We go up to the roof with some snacks and watch all the kites. Hopefully, very soon, we can teach our children how to fly a kite!" she says.
The festival is celebrated in different states with their own unique delicacies and traditions. However, since it's a harvest festival, rice dishes features prominently in the festivities.
Rajasthan: The state celebrates 'Sankrant' with great gusto. From the making of special Rajasthani sweets like ghevar, kheer, gajak and pheeni to giving gifts to loved ones, this is the first major Hindu festival of the year for them. For married women, this festival is of special significance as each married woman gives 13 other married women, gifts on this day.
Uttar Pradesh and Bihar: Also known as 'Khichadi' in some parts of the State, this day is celebrated by offering prayers to the Sun God and taking a dip in the holy waters of the Ganga. The famous Kumbh Mela also takes place during this time.
Gujarat: The festival, known as Uttarayan in Gujarati, is marked by flying kites. The sky is covered in kites of all colors and sizes as people enjoy their traditional snacks like chikkis and til laddoos.
Punjab: Lohri is celebrated a day before Makar Sankranti, that is, on 13 February. The festival is marked by lighting a bonfire (which is symbolic of the Sun God), wearing new clothes, eating sweets and participating in group songs and dance.
Tamil Nadu: Known as Pongal, this festival is celebrated over four days and is one of the most important festivals for the people of the state. People decorate their houses, don new clothes, visit their families, cook a delicious meal and offer their prayers to the Sun God to seek his blessings.
Assam: In Assam, the festival is called Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu and on this special day, families come together to enjoy a special feast and play traditional games together.
Maharashtra: Here the festival is celebrated over three days and delicacies like halwa, puran poli and til laddoos are prepared. This is a day to forget all past bitterness and add sweetness in each other's lives by exchanging sweets. Married women get together for the 'Haldi Kumkum' ritual where they give each other small gifts.
1. Make and fly colorful kites: Flying kites is synonymous with Sankranti and it's also a creative and fun way to engage your child. You can buy a kite or make a colorful one at home. However, there are some safety measures you must keep in mind before letting the kites soar high in the sky. And if your child is too young to fly a kite, you can always involve him in making one and then use it to decorate a corner of your home!
2. Make a beautiful rangoli: Give your child the chance to show her creativity. Help her, but let her choose the colors and the design. Let her do the rangoli on her own. The ultimate work may not be perfect, but it'll be worth so much more in memories.
3. Have a sweet time: Sankranti is a festival that is about food as much as it is about new beginnings. Involve the whole family in the preparation of the traditional sweets including your little one. Even if her only duty is to lick the bowl! Doing a task together ingrains in her the importance of team work and teaches her about the significance of the festival.
4. Share stories over a bonfire: Sitting around the bonfire and sharing funny stories about how you spent your Makar Sankranti as a child - could there be any better way to spend the festival? Make the most of the cold night with hot snacks and warm company.
5. Cook dinner together: What could be better than ending a wonderful day with a delicious dinner? And for a nice twist, ask the women in the family to put their feet up while the men and the kids have fun putting a meal together. The men will have an interesting time, the kids will have a lot of fun and the ladies will love it.
6. Have a picnic: Whether in your terrace or in the balcony, put together a quick picnic for the family. Over some delicious snacks and tea, teach your children the importance of Makar Sankranti and why we must always respect and nurture mother nature who provides for us.
7. Feed the cows: During this festival, cows are worshipped for their role in the harvest. This is a great opportunity to teach your children about caring for animals and how they help us as well.
Children love traditions and they learn very fast. It doesn't matter which generation they belong to. Doing the simple things together as a family, like making a rangoli or cooking a meal, means more to them than playing with the latest cool toy.
This Makar Sankranti give your children the gift of time and traditions. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what festival you celebrate and how, but that you do it together as a family.
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