A holiday dedicated to the Sun God, Surya, Thai Pongal is an annual Hindu holiday, predominantly celebrated among Tamil communities around the world. Marking the end of the winter solstice, the holiday is a harvest festival that takes place over the course of three to four days.
Given the rich culture and traditions of the Tamil community, Thai Pongal is celebrated with the aid of age-old customs that are followed with great reverence and exuberance. If you’re curious about how you can celebrate Thai Pongal this year, here are a few tips!
Prepare delicious sweetmeats for simple gastronomic delights
Did you know that Thai Pongal even has a special dish known as Pongal rice?
Pongal, which literally means ‘to boil, overflow’, is a technique used to prepare the rice, which is made of rice from a new harvest, boiled in milk with jaggery, green gram, raisins, cashew nuts, cardamom and other ingredients.
The dish is considered to be a pleasing sacrifice and is offered to Hindu gods during the festival. It’s usually on the second day that the family gathers together and prepares Pongal rice on a fire hearth made of bricks. The rice is cooked in a clay pot, with each family member adding a handful of rice in.
The sweet and aromatic rice is then served on a banana leaf and given to the family.
Other dishes you can prepare and enjoy with your family and friends include curd rice, coconut rice, lemon rice, idli sambar – a life-changing dish if you have it with a thick curry! – and vada, which can be made in different ways with a mix of pulses.
Give gifts to all those who are near and dear
Another major and exciting part of Thai Pongal is the exchange of meaningful gifts between close friends and family.
While there’s no restriction to what you can and can’t give, gold happens to be a very popular token of appreciation during this holiday period. While many celebrants prize their gold jewellery, you can now gift gold to the people you care about as quickly and as easily as you’d make a bank transfer.
The best part? You don’t have to be a big spender this Thai Pongal; gift gold for any amount you’re comfortable spending – even as low as $10!
Give your home a thorough cleaning and throw out old belongings
In preparing for Thai Pongal, a major part of pre-festivities is spring cleaning your home! If you’ve been looking for a good reason to give your house a thorough scrub down, this is basically part and parcel of the holiday experience.
In this process, take a look at household items and belongings you no longer need and either give them to people who may need them or throw them out completely. In many households, it’s a Thai Pongal tradition to burn these items in a bonfire.
Make time for the people you care about
While engaging in the festivities during this holiday is important, what’s more important is spending time and forging deeper connections with your family, friends, and loved ones.
Thai Pongal is meant to bring the whole family together with its cheerful festivities. Even if you don’t follow every tradition or custom, make sure you appreciate the people who love and support you during this holiday.
Visit a temple if you’re feeling inspired
On the second day of the festival, celebrants usually head to a temple to offer their prayers for a more prosperous year. A variety of processions usually take place here and this presents a wonderful opportunity for the community to gather and offer their good wishes to one another.
While you don’t have to visit a temple to celebrate this holiday, pay a visit to a nearby place of worship if you want to enjoy the full Thai Pongal experience.
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