In terms of festivals, Indians have a whole host of practical ones. We love to celebrate; we have over 50 festivals (read holidays) in a year, not counting the secular, bank and national holidays. There is an old saying that we are all Indian first, our religions next. While we follow the Roman calendar, the actual New Year’s we celebrate follow our agricultural cycles. The first harvest of the year is in March and April (our spring) and we celebrate it with much grandeur, so much so that there are different versions of these fests that are being adopted into other cultures (Ana showed me this amazing one called the Colour Run)
We only have 3 major seasons in India. Summer, Winter and Monsoon. Our winters aren’t severe but are drastically colder than our long, hot summer months and like with most countries, sometime in March, the leafless trees start sprouting fresh green leaves and flowers of the brightest colours are in bloom. Riding around town is such a distraction!
Depending on which province in India you are from, you celebrate one of these festivals, although, if we are to be honest, we celebrate all of it. Give us a reason to celebrate and we will do it in style. Our three major harvest/spring festivals are –
Holi – The Festival of Colour
To say a big HELLO to Spring, we celebrate Holi – it is our Festival of Colour. Holi is portrayed in a lot of pop culture movies and TV shows and is basically a festival in which we throw colour at each other and more often than not, a water balloon. And as with any Indian festival, there is a lot of dancing and singing and food made with freshly harvested vegetables.
Ugadi – The Harvest Festival
Celebrated mostly in the south of India, the word literally means “The start of an era”. Like Holi, the festival is designed for us to celebrate the first harvest of the year. We celebrate by starting the day by eating fresh green neem leaves, jaggery and raw mango. The combination of bitter, sweet and sour is symbolic not only of a fresh crop full of health benefits but also of life itself and how all of those tastes is what makes life as beautiful as it is. The festival is also ushered in by binging on freshly made sweet treats and salads.
Vishu – The Festival of Renewal
This is also a South Indian festival, celebrated in Kerala, a province most fondly called – God’s own country. The harvest in Kerala comes a little later and is celebrated in April. While they leave the “being colourful” bit to the wonderful scenery nature provides in those areas, they celebrate Vishu with light and fireworks. This occasion is used to buy new clothes and gadgets to symbolize renewal and an auspicious start to a new year reflects how the rest of the year will transpire. The best part of the festival (at least according to every youngster who celebrates this festival) is the tradition of giving money. You seek the blessing of an older member of the family and in return, they give you fresh notes and newly minted coins.
What are some of the festivals you celebrate in your country that is harvest related?