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A Kite Festival Experience
By Lydia, YES Abroad 2019-2020, India
One of my favorite things about India is all the festivals that are celebrated throughout the year. Recently, I had the chance to celebrate a festival called Uttarayan for the first time. Uttarayan, also known as Makar Sankranti, is celebrated annually on the 14th and 15th of January. This festival is meant to mark the end of winter and the expansion of daytime. Celebrating this festival with my host aunt and uncle was an unforgettable experience that I will treasure forever! During this festival, many different traditions are observed. Reflecting on Uttarayan, the kites come to mind. Each year, over eight million people all over India go up on their rooftops to fly brightly colored paper kites.
It was breathtaking to see just how many there were all at once! Unlike the kites I’m familiar with in the U.S., the string for these kites is coated with little fibers of glass so that, if you’re lucky, you can cut someone else’s kite string! When you do, everyone who is flying with you will cheer and make noise with air horns. Even if you can’t fly a kite well, no worries! Since the kites are normally made of paper and bamboo, people will bring a whole pile, so that after your string is cut, you can just tie on another kite and continue flying. Some people even enjoy music and dancing as they flew their kites! And of course, what would a festival be without delicious food? During Uttarayan there are two dishes that are commonly eaten in my host community. One is called Undhiyu, a mixture of cooked winter vegetables and spices, and a dessert called Jalebi, which is made of deep-fried dough and a type of sticky sweet syrup.
Finally, just when the sun was starting to set, people began to set off fireworks and paper lanterns glided into the sky. It really was an amazing sight! This was an amazing experience! It was as if all the best parts of each festival were rolled all into one. Just the sight of all the kites in the air and the music was enough to lift spirits. I am so thankful to be able to enjoy this incredible celebration, and I can’t wait to return to India to enjoy Uttarayan again someday!