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Hindu: Makar Sankrat/Pongal

Hindu: Makar Sankrat/Pongal

This January 14 Hindu holiday celebrates the new solar year, considered to be the beginning of the new day for the gods and the end of their six-month night. It is observed and named differently in each region―Pongal in the south of India and Makar Sankrat in the north. But most festivities include a common theme of ceremonial cleansing, offerings, and celebrations of the harvest. Pongal, which means "to boil over," refers both to the concept of bounty and to the traditional dish of rice boiled in milk, which is given to the gods as an offering. Sesame seeds, or til, are looked upon as a symbol of health and friendship. Sweets made from sesame and jaggery―a special kind of sugar―are exchanged on the holiday along with the saying, "accept these sweets and speak sweet words." The tradition reminds people to resolve past quarrels so that friendship can thrive.

Try it: Sesame Sweets

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