Today marks the beginning of the end of winter in Nepal. Taking place about 3 weeks after the tropical winter solstice, Maghe Sankranti is not only the first day of the 10th month of the Nepali calendar, but also a marker that the hardest of the winter days are over. While most celebrations in Nepal follow the lunar calendar, this is one that follows the path of the sun, as it moves towards the north, to bring an end to the cold winter days.
As with most festivals in our country, food plays a big part in this celebration too. The festival Maghi has a special significance for the Tharu community in the Terai, and is practiced with much aplomb in Kathmandu valley by the Newar community as well.
Special delicacies are enjoyed on this day: Til ko laddu (brown sesame seed fudge), Chakku (molasys), Ghee (clarified butter), and yams to warm up the soul. Prepared with love by most families, sesame seed delicacies are mixed with molasys to form a bitter sweet delight (black sesame ladoos); and white sesame seeds coating a sugary core. Boiled yams and tubers of sweet potato add a softer savoury layer to the the crunchy sugary goodness. Molasys is considered to give a lot of energy during cold days, and yams and sweet potatoes also help generate extra warmth in ones' body.
The practice of celebrating Maghe Sankranti goes back to an old folklore about a merchant of Bhaktapur. The story passed down from generation to generation commemorates that a merchant of Bhaktapur was selling alot of sesame, but his stock never ran out. He curiously searched for clues to see how this was possible. Cleaning his stock pile he found the Idol of Lord Vishnu down beneath the pile of seeds. Since then, the idol is worshipped as Til-Madhav idol and it is believed till date that worshipping this idol will bring supply of food, prosperity and wealth.
Maghe Sankranti brings families together to enjoy good food while sitting in the sun, which is believed to provide extra nourishment & energy to get everyone through the rest of the winter months.