A birthday for all? New Year’s Day in Majuli is extra special

Location IconMajuli district, Assam

New Year’s Day is a time of joy and celebration across the globe, but in Majuli the celebrations bear greater significance. This is because many locals of the riverine district celebrate their birthday on New Year’s Day. “In earlier times, we did not have a system to track birthdays or keep medical records. When children were enrolled in schools, they were expected to provide a date of birth as well. And since most people did not remember the date, they would just say 1st January,” says Krishna Kanta Pegu, a resident of Majuli’s Kulamua village.

The first day of the year is celebrated with great fanfare in many villages of the Mising tribe. Celebrations begin at the break of dawn, with the preparation of a special meal in every home. “Pork is an important part of the festivities; it is, after all, a favourite of our community,” says Krishna. The celebrations kick into gear by 10 am, as people hop from home to home to meet their friends and relatives in the village.

Popular Mising, Bihu, and Hindi songs are played in every house, and people partake in delicious meals that are accompanied by apong, a local rice beer. “No one remembers exactly when this tradition began, but it might have been more than 30 years ago,” adds Krishna. Dressed in bright colours, the locals spend the day eating, mingling, and dancing. The celebrations generally end with a riverside picnic in the evening.   

The practice of cutting birthday cakes has also been adopted by the Mising community. Several women have even enrolled in baking classes and now sell cakes. “It’s a good time for business,” says Dulumoni Regon, a member of the farmer producer organisation that operates Lékopé cafe in Garamur village. “We get at least five to six birthday cake orders every New Year’s Day.”

Nikita Chatterjee is a development practitioner, poet, and story writer.

Know more: Learn about the unforeseen consequences of soil erosion in Majuli.


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