Maghi festival is celebrated on the first day of the Nepali month of Magh (usually around the middle of January). On this special day, the people of the Tharu community celebrate the fest in full tune. These people from special tribes take blessings from their elders. One interesting thing is that they donate rice and delicious food to sisters in the family and everybody eats different varieties of food during the entire day. Food containing lots of protein, carbohydrates and vitamins is eaten on this day.
If you are in the Tharu village on this special day you will witness different kinds of songs and dances as well as beautifully & culturally dressed boys and girls. Family members, who may not have seen each other for a long time, exchange gifts when they meet, which makes the fest one of the biggest celebrations in this community. They celebrate this festival for a week and the first day of Magh is the main day of the festival.
Maghe sakranti, Maghi or Makkar sankranti are used as names of the festival. We celebrate this festival to mark an astronomical phenomenon and eat winter food. In fact this is our celebration of the winter solstice. This festival is celebrated exactly on the day when days get longer and nights shorten. January 14th is the day of transition when days just turn to be longer.
People gather in groups and eat food sharing it in a big family get-together. Married daughters and grown-up sons return to their parents’ house for the feast, so this day can be regarded as a reunion day for the family (though most of the festival has a theme of reunion as well). Apart from that, this festival is really interesting with foods, cultural dresses and much more.
We basically eat a lot of root vegetables such as sweet potato. This day is also a day when we donate food to people and share our food we have cooked with our neighbors. This builds harmony among people and is an interesting side of this celebration. What we eat during the festival Makkar sakranti is very similar to the festivals called Tihar and Dashain, a big festival of Hindu people. Besides common food we eat refined butter, chaku, sakhhar khanda, Til ko laddu, sell roti and much more.
For religious believers, these foods renew positivity, just like how they start the day with showers. As this day longer than the last the daylight thus brightens the mind and refreshes the will power. You could be interested to know that god-related rituals, ceremonies, and functions in Hindu families officially begin from this day as we cannot do them before this date. We use most of the vegetarian food which keeps you warm as this day is one of the chilliest days. Most of this day is related to the solar calendar.
Alcohol in Maghi Festival
The only possible downside of this day is that you can’t drink alcohol because if you do then your fortune will be bad for an entire year. Just be vegetarian; if you eat meat on this day then you will be poor in satisfaction (if not in money or other wealth). Today is the day when you need to donate, if someone is asking for something donate blindly. Don’t ignore them because it might mean bad fortune once again. The fourth thing you need to do is start this day with a shower/. If you shower today you will be clean and healthy for the year ahead. Interestingly, you have to shower just with cold water – not hot water. And don’t sit next to the fire; instead use mustard oil to warm yourself up like Vaseline does.
After taking a shower or bath in running water like rivers or under a tap, what you need to do is donate money, warm clothes, or warm bed covers. Another thing is that if sun is inferior in your horoscope; offer bronze metallic dishes or coins to the river. And something else that you can do in this specific day is greet your dad’s foot – and why not, mom’s as well!
These above things are historical beliefs and cultural practices, as this is the day when even gods bathe in the flowing holy rivers like Bagmati, Kankai, Ganga and many others. Have a warm and happy day of maghi, makkar sakranti or maghe sakranti.
How to book this kind of festival participation?
If you have a friend in Nepal ask him or ask any of the tour operators. We recommend you stay for a week in the Terai region of Nepal if you are really looking forward to this fest. The people are very welcoming and they will let you see what they will do.
You can do a home-stay with a typical Tharu family or stay in a hotel.
This is a festival and a feast so food with your host family will be free of cost but you need to be flexible with what they offer. In Nepal we have a practice of accepting whatever is offered to us as a guest of honor.