Asian Women of Winnipeg
Lohri: A Celebration of New Beginnings
“According to United Nations Population Fund, around 140 million women are believed to be "missing" around the world – as a consequence
of son preference, including gender-biased sex selection, a form of discrimination. In some areas Since up to 25 % more male births
than female births have been observed since the 1990s. This statistic is alarming as it reflects the continuing low status of women and girls.
It is clear that the subsequent gender imbalance has a damaging effect on societies. Of note, increased sexual violence and trafficking have occurred due to this situation”.
Lohri is a seasonal festival of North India and has become one of the main attractions in the south Asian community of Winnipeg. “Lohri is celebrated in a traditional way by sitting together around the fire, singing the traditional songs, dancing and enjoying with our children, family & friends.” It represents a spirit of brotherhood, unity, and gratitude, with family reunions, merrymaking and generating happiness, goodwill, and cheer. It is considered that walking around the bonfire, helps in bringing prosperity, and fills life with positivity as well as honor.
Lohri marks the end of winters and the onset of spring and celebrated on winter solstice day, being the shortest day and the longest night of the year to denote the last of the coldest days of winter. Lohri is known as the festival of harvest, the farmers pray and show gratitude for their crops before the harvesting begins and pray to Lord Agni to bless their land with abundance, all whilst moving around the fire. This is to show respect to the natural element of fire. This ritual is performed for thanking the Sun God and seeking his continued protection.
A legend linked to the celebration of Lohri is the tale of ‘Dulla Bhatti’, who famously saved a group of young girls from being sold into slavery. His good deeds have become legendary and various songs and dances are performed in his honor.
Lohri festival also holds cultural significance – welcoming a new family member, a newborn boy or a new bride in the family and is celebrated with great enthusiasm as it symbolizes fertility. Since AWOW has taken the opportunity to celebrate the birth of baby girls at Lohri celebration.
The vision of AWOW in hosting this festival is not only to showcase our culture, preserve the heritage, connect our youth with our traditions but to give a strong message of gender equality, to change the existing mindset of new immigrants as well as to train the next generation that a baby is being blessed with a gift from God and is an honor and they should celebrate their child regardless of gender. This message been encompassed by so many families and every year we see an increase in families coming forward to celebrate the birth of their baby girls.
Since AWOW is primarily concerned with girls and women, we have taken the advantage of adding the celebration of baby girls as an added attraction, and in addition to the traditional norms as reasons for the festival.