Tips to Cut Down Our Daily Plastic Use

Its January, and that time of year where we are still trying to pick up and stick to some new resolutions and habits: weight loss, healthy eating, more family time etc.

If you have been reading about the pressing issue of plastic pollution, and are concerned about it, we highly recommend adding a goal of reducing your personal plastic consumption this year.

National Geographic came up with a really compelling set of pictures that document the scale of plastic pollution in our world today. Check it out here.


Plastic isn’t biodegradable. Which means it cannot break down (or takes forever and a day) into natural materials in the environment without causing harm. While a plastic free life isn’t for everyone, we all can do our bit in reducing our overall dependence on it.

Daunting as it may seem from the outside, it is truly a simple beginning. All it takes is awareness, and some prior planning.

Click here to learn about simple ways in which we all can cut down our own daily plastic consumption.

Please add your own suggestions in the comments box.

Makar Sankranti

Makar Sankranti – India’s Favorite Harvest Festival

Makar Sankranti is one of India’s most popular harvest festivals. Farmers all over India wait till the months of January-February to harvest their crop and express gratitude to god for the year’s harvest.

The name, “Makar Sankranti” is loosely translated to mean “Capricorn Transition”. Thus, Makar Sankranti is celebrated on the day the sun reaches its southernmost dip and then starts moving northwards.

Makar Sankranti is celebrated all over India, and each region has its own unique celebration. For example, the world’s largest gathering of people, the Kumbh Mela, organized in Allahabad (now Prayagraj) is inaugurated with the first dip on Makar Sankranti. Here’s a good photo album on Kumbh Mela.

Punjab:

Punjab celebrates Sankranti as “Maghi”. Taking an early morning dip in the river is considered an essential part of the Maghi celebrations. The Hindus light Diyas or lamps with sesame seed oil, as it is known to invite prosperity and drive away all sin.

Since Maghi is celebrated during peak winter seasons, the food eaten is very rich and high in calories. Slow-cooked Kheer, Khichdi, Jaggery, etc. are main components of the menu during Maghi celebrations.

Rajasthan and Western Madhya Pradesh:

“Sankrant” is a big deal in Rajasthan and MP. Sankrant holds a lot of cultural significance in this region and is the main festival of the year.

A part of the traditional celebrations is to gift 13 married woman any household item. A married woman’s first Sankrant has much value – she is invited to her maternal home along with her husband for a huge feast. Sweets such as Til-Gud Laddu (Sesame-Jaggery Laddu) are prepared and distributed among family and friends.

Kite-flying is considered a part of the tradition in this region. The sky is filled with colorful kites, with people of all ages engaging in kite-cutting contests.

Kite StoreA good old kite store in Rajasthan

Tamil Nadu – 4 days of Pongal

Sankranti is celebrated as “Pongal” in Tamil Nadu. It is celebrated across four days, with each day dedicated to a different god associated with agriculture.

The first day is celebrated as Bhogi wherein farmers express their gratitude to Lord Indra. The other three days are Thai Pongal, Maattu Pongal and Kaanum Pongal.

Pongal is a delicacy prepared as Prasadam for the deities. It is incredibly simple to make and takes about 30 minutes. On Pongal day, women of each neighborhood come out and cook pongal on the streets, marking a celebration of hope, abundance, and sharing.

Women making pongal dishWomen participating in a community pongal-cooking celebration in Dharavi, Mumbai.

 Odisha

Odisha celebrates Sankranti with much enthusiasm and faith. Deities are offered Prasadam prepared using uncooked newly harvested rice, jaggery, coconut, banana, sesame, rasagola, etc.

Apart from this, devotees at the Konark temple pray with much intensity as the sun starts its northward swing. Apart from the usual traditions, there are also a few unique traditions here. For example, people reaffirm their friendship with their best friends during Sankranti.

Assam – Bihu

Assam celebrates Bihu which signifies the end of the harvesting season for the year. The festivities of Bihu last up to a week and are adorned by bonfires and colorful Rangolis drawn everywhere.

Traditionally, the youth build huts made out of bamboo, leaves, etc., and then feast in those huts. Then, the next morning those huts would be burnt.

Assam sees and tastes a lot of delicacies during Bihu – such as a traditional Assamese cake made using Bamboo. Read more about Shunga Pitha

Gujarat

Gujarat sees a lot of vibrance for Sankranti. It is celebrated for two days in this region with the first day being called “Uttarayan”. Skies in major cities are filled with kites of various sizes and shapes. There is a fierce kite cutting competition, and the cord used to fly kites is usually strengthened.

A Common Sight in Gujarat Throughout the Month of January

Winters in Gujarat are cold as well, which means that a lot of cold weather food is prepared during Sankranti, ranging from simple snacks like Chikki, to complicated dishes like Undhiyu.

 Maharashtra

 Makar Sankranti is celebrated in Maharashtra for two days. There is a lot of emphasis on community, hence Maharashtrians distribute Til-Gul Laddus, and wish for the other person to utter only sweet words for the year. Apart from these laddus, Maharashtrians also prepare another delicacy called Puran Poli. You can try the recipe for Puran Poli here.

 Delhi & Haryana

This region views Sankranti as one of the main festivals of the year.

Married women are visited by one of their brothers who brings a gift of warm clothing for her family. She offers sweets to her brother, such as Churma.

Karnataka

For farmers in Karnataka, January-February bring about Suggi, which is the harvest festival celebrated here. In a ritual called Elle Burodhi, girls wear new clothes and visit the homes of friends, family and neighbors with an offering of a small plate of Sankranti offerings. The plate generally consists of white sesame seeds mixed with fried groundnuts, dry coconut and fine cut jaggery.

Among other rituals such as kite flying, one of the most important rituals involves the display of cows and bulls in colorful attire in open fields. The cows are dressed up for the occasion and are taken out for a procession. They are also made to jump over an open fire. This is quite common among farmer communities in rural Karnataka.

Nepal

India’s little neighbor celebrates Sankranti as Maaghe Sankranti. Celebrations involve lots of pomp and show, along with a ton of food cooked as offerings to deities distributed among friends and family. Here’s a very good blog on an authentic Maaghe Sanranti experience in Nepal.

Do add comments about your own cultural practices of celebrating Pongal/Sankranti/Lohri/Bihu. Daana, and all our farmers wish you a very happy Makar Sankranti!

How India Celebrates Christmas

 

Christmas in India – An Insight Into how India Celebrates Christmas

 

India has always held Christmas in high regard. Though the population of Christians is just around 2.5% of the total population, India has around 30 million Christians distributed over various states and territories.

 

Christmas Celebrations in Various Parts of India:

 

Goa has a Christian population of around 25%, which makes Christmas in Goa a sight to behold. It is a known fact that Goans love to celebrate Christmas with much fervour. People participate in midnight masses and gorge on traditional curries and Christmas pies. People also decorate and maintain traditional Christmas trees which helps in bringing the spirit of Christmas alive.

 

Christmas celebrations in Goa
Christmas in Goa

 

Goans prepare a traditional delicacy, called “Neureos”, which you could try at home today!

Meghalaya – A Beautifully Decorated Church

Let’s go from the Westernmost corner of India to the Easternmost corner. India’s North East also has a very high concentration of Christians who take pride in celebrating Christmas with much enthusiasm. In the Northeast, tribal Christians celebrate their Christmas week by going out every night, singing their traditional Christmas carols and telling the villagers the story of Christmas. The whole state is beautifully lit to welcome the arrival of their dear Santa Claus, and the air is alive with singing and merriment.

In Kerala, Christmas is an important festival, for about 20-23% of the population is Christian. The huge churches of Cochin are majestically decorated to get the town in the spirit of Christmas – not that it is required, though. Keralites hold Christmas close to their hearts, as is evident by their exalted celebrations. Syrian Catholics are known to fast from the 1st to the 24th of December, and will break their fast only on the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass. The midnight mass sees an atmosphere of exuberance and excitement – Christmas is finally here.

christmas celebrations in cochin, kerala.
Christmas in Cochin, Kerala

Keralites take their Christmas food just as seriously as the festival itself. Here’s one of our favorites, Lemon-Garlic Herbs Grilled Chicken.

When talking about Christmas, one cannot ignore the decorous spirit of Mumbai in celebrating this festival. Mumbai’s public places are awash with Christmas lights and stores usually have a small Christmas tree up front. Christmas in Mumbai is much like Christmas in Australia – neither is it cold, nor is there any snow.

However, Mumbaikars celebrate Christmas with lots of enthusiasm. Here’s a list of a few Midnight Masses in Mumbai that you shouldn’t miss out on.

 

How Farmers Celebrate Christmas in India

 

India has a small number of Christian farmers. Most of them are marginal farmers who can barely make ends meet. However, this doesn’t stop most of them from getting into the spirit of Christmas. Sometimes, instead of a traditional Christmas tree, some people decorate Banyan or Mango trees, the reason being that they’re easily found and are significantly cheaper. For most Christian farmers, Christmas celebrations are all about affordability. Some will also use mango leaves to decorate their homes.

 

Fair Trade – How it Can Make Christmas Possible for Farmers, & What You Can Do:


‘Fair trade’ in agriculture simply means that the farmer gets sufficient monetary compensation for their efforts, rather than money being skimped off by middlemen and other intermediaries. Free trade involves a lot of local sourcing connections and can be difficult to establish in a system so fixated on middlemen.

It is a known fact that farmers are exploited six ways to Sunday by middlemen at every opportunity they get – and the opportunities are plenty. The result is that the farmer doesn’t get a fair compensation for all their hard work in tending to their crops.

Christmas is all about kindness and looking out for those around you. Farmers form a pretty significant part of our lives. Paying the farmers a fair price will only strengthen their resolve, helping you make their Christmas better.

Fair trade not only ensures the farmer a fair monetary compensation for their efforts, but also the respect that they so rightfully deserve.

What can you do to help farmers? For one, you could either start purchasing directly from local farmers without the added burden of middlemen, or buy from an organization that works closely with farmers to help these farmers make some money.


How You Can Go Organic This Christmas:


There are a quite a  few things you could tweak this Christmas to go organic. Here are a few things you can readily implement this year:

1. Go for Seasonal, Organically Grown Veggies:

 

A lot of people host Christmas parties. The food you serve can be organic. Choose seasonal, organically grown vegetables to go into your menu as the bare minimum you can do to go organic.

 

2. Organic Cotton:

 

Cotton is regarded as one of the most polluting industries. Organic cotton, on the other hand is grown using sustainable farming practices. Indians use cotton for two purposes during Christmas – decorations and gifts.

Not all regions of India are blessed with snow during Christmas, resulting in widespread use of cotton to create the effect. The other use of cotton occurs in the form of gifts – a lot of people gift other people clothes during Christmas. Swapping for organically grown cotton will help reduce your carbon footprint, and help you go organic.

 

3. Identify Your Local Farmers:

 

This Christmas, ditch the supermarkets for your food-based needs. Identify your local farmers, locate their farms and try to spend at least a little time with them. This serves two purposes – one, you get to know the farmer and their hardships, and two, you get to help them by buying their produce directly.

 

 

The Bottom Line

 

Christmas has always been a big deal in India. Over the past few years, it has started gaining more popularity in terms of celebrations. You don’t necessarily have to be Christian to get into the Christmas spirit. It is rightfully said that Christmas isn’t just a festival – it’s a feeling.

Get into the Christmas spirit, take time off to be with your family and friends.

Daana wishes its customers a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.