The first day of the Bengali new year, 1429, is on the 15th of April 2022. This day is popularly celebrated as Pohela Baisakh by Bengalis all around the world. Pohela stands for ‘the first’ and Baisakh is the first month of the Bengali calendar. This day is celebrated with grandeur by all Bengalis, especially in West Bengal. People greet one another with love and warmth. They wish their friends and family a ‘Subho Noboborsho’ (Subho: Happy; Noboborsho: New Year). Schools and colleges declare a holiday on Pohela Baisakh so kids can enjoy the celebrations thoroughly.
There are certain traditions that Bengalis follow on this day. These traditions add to the joy and enthusiasm of the Noboborsho celebrations. These traditions add to the excitement and anticipation of embracing the upcoming year. From shopping for Pohela Baisakh to enjoying grand feasts, here are the five Pohela Baisakh must-do’s that add to the excitement of welcoming the Bengali New Year.
Bengalis are crazy about the Pohela Baisakh celebrations, and the preparations begin almost a month ahead. It is an unsaid custom to shop and wear new clothes on the first day of the Bengali new year. It is the day for the traditional ‘Panjabis’ and ‘Atpoure’ sarees for the bongs. The streets, markets, restaurants, parks, and malls are all dotted with people clad in colourful Bengali ethnic wear on Pohela Baisakh. The little girls are draped in beautiful colour-pop sarees and accessories like floral headgears, while the little boys flaunt their new starched Panjabis.
If you are in West Bengal a month ahead of Pohela Baisakh, you will be able to witness the infectious enthusiasm of shopping for the new year, in Chaitra Sale, among the bongs. Yes, there’s an entire sale season right before the Pohela Baisakh. ‘Chaitra’ is the last month of the Bengali calendar, and almost every shop offers a sale price on their merchandise during this month. People buy new clothes, jewellery, puja items, home decor items, cookware, and many other utility things on sale during this time. Among all the other things, new clothes for the Noboborsho are a must! Kids have much fun accompanying their elders to the market for the Pohela Baisakh shopping.
Pohela Baisakh is observed as an auspicious day by all Bengalis, be it in West Bengal or in any other part of the world. Most businessmen perform religious rituals on this day and worship the deities of Lakshmi and Ganesh. It is popularly referred to as the Haalkhatha occasion by Bengali businessmen. They open a new ledger for the upcoming year on Pohela Baisakh.
People are welcome to visit the shops and most shop-owners offer sweets and refreshments to their guests and customers on the occasion of Pohela Baisakh. Almost every shop where there is a Haalkhatha going on, on this day, boxes of sweets and gifts are distributed among the customers. So visiting multiple shops on this day is almost customary for Bengalis, whether they buy something or not. Kids happen to enjoy the sweet boxes, gifts, and refreshments, greatly.
The traditional full-course Bengali meal is on the menu at most restaurants on the occasion of Pohela Baisakh. The breakfast spread begins with the traditional Bengali bread, potato side dishes, and cereals,- popularly known as ‘Luchi, Chholar daal, Sada Alur Torkari’, in Bengali. Many people prefer going out for lunch and dinner with their families and friends on Pohela Baisakh nowadays. All Bengali restaurants have special offers on grand menus for almost a week for this occasion. In fact, even some Asian and North-Indian restaurants in Kolkata offer traditional Bengali delicacies for Pohela Baisakh festivities.
Kids' special buffets are cooked and served keeping in mind the spice tolerance of the little ones. From cool lime and curd beverages, pulao, mouth-watering veg, and non-veg fritters, large prawns marinated in mustard and coconut milk, bhetki grilled in banana leaves, smoked hilsa, to chicken and mutton delicacies- the aroma of age-old Bengali recipes permeate through almost every Bengali household and restaurants on Pohela Baisakh. There are special offers on kids’ buffets at restaurants and they are greeted with lovely gifts wherever they go on this day.
Meeting up with family and friends is a common practice among Bengalis on the occasion of Pohela Baisakh. People gather to wish each other Subho Noboborsho, where ‘subho’ stands for happy and ‘noboborsho’ stands for the new year. Kids touch the feet of their elders and seek their blessings to begin the new year. Men hug each other as a customary greeting for Subho Noboborsho when they meet on Pohela Baisakh.
The best incentive for kids to participate in family gatherings is the small money envelopes that they receive as a new year's gift from their elders. Mostly, grandparents dole out small amounts of money among their grandchildren as a token of love and blessing on Pohela Baisakh.
Sweets are an integral part of the celebrations of the Bengali New Year. So, be it the breakfast table, the extravagant luncheons, or the hearty dinner spreads, sweets are a mandate on Pohela Baisakh. Homemade desserts or the sweets from the best confectioneries, Bengalis nevermind to go an extra mile for their sweet tooth on Pohela Baisakh.
A variety of traditional sweets like Sandesh, Rosogollas, Paati Saapta, and many new customized sweets are available at the confectioneries on this day. Kids are very fond of the colourful platter of Sandesh- a sweet made of cottage cheese. Be it the Haalkhatha scenes at the shops, or be it the family gatherings, the exchange of sweet boxes is almost customary on Pohela Baisakh.
It is an old tradition to celebrate the first day of Bengali New Year with songs and folk dances. Cultural events for kids are organized on Pohela Baisakh in many old neighbourhoods of West Bengal, even today. Kids clad in vibrant new clothes recite poems, sing songs, and perform dance dramas and folk dances at these events. In some residential societies outside West Bengal, cultural events on Pohela Baisakh are arranged by Bengali associations.
The adorable performances of kids, the array of Bengali sweets, the shop visits, the new clothes, the Haal Khatha, and the food make the first day of the Bengali New Year even more eventful. So let’s embrace this Noboborsho with the five fun things to do on Pohela Baisakh with family and kids and let the joy echo louder through each day of the New Year!