Today is Makar Sankraanti.. Happy Makar Sankraanti to all. It always falls on 14th January. It is the only Hindu festival which is celebrated according to Christian calendar otherwise all other festivals are celebrated according to Moon calendar.
It is celebrated all over India in different flavors
In North in UP and in Karnaatak people call it "Khichadee" or only "Sankraanti".
In Gujaraat it is celebrated as the "Kite Festival".
In Panjaab it is celebrated as "Lohadee" on 13th January, a day before actual Sankraanti and on Sankraanti they donate "Khichadee" to Braahman.
In Tamil Naadu and Aandhra it is called "Pongal" which is celebrated for four days. The day also coincides with the commencement of the Tamil month Thai. The day usually falls on 14th January every year.
What is Makar Sankraanti
There is a Zodiac belt, of 360 degrees, around our Earth which for convenience has been divided in 12 sections.
For convenience these 12 sections of 30 degrees each have been named as Aries, Taurus, Gemini etc and are called 12 Signs.
The Sun takes full one year to go through this Zodiac, means all the 12 Signs.
When the Sun transits from one Sign to another Sign of the Zodiac, it is called Sankraanti in Sanskrit and Hindi.
Thus there are 12 Sankraanti in one year because of these 12 Signs..
Although all Sankraanti are important but this particular Sankraanti, Makar Sankraanti, is the most important for us. Why is it so? Everybody knows how important the Sun is for us. And everybody knows that the Sun is static, does not move, only the Earth rotates around the Sun along with revolving on its axis also. Because of the Earth's these two movements we experience seasons and day and night respectively.
Because of the Earth's position in relation to Sun, Sun always stays towards the Earth only from 23.5 degree North to 23.5 degree South to the Equator. It takes the Sun 6 months to go to 23.5 degrees South from 23.5 degrees North and the same time to come back to 23.5 degree North.
23.5 degree North point is called the "Line of Cancer" (Kark Rekhaa) and the 23.5 degree South is called the "Line of Capricorn" (Makar Rekhaa). These two extreme points lie in the year on or around 14th of July, the North one when it is peak of Summer; and 14th of January, the South one when it is peak Winter. It happens so because we live in Northern Hemisphere and when the Sun is in Northern Hemisphere we get more sun rays than from the other six months. Since we get more Sun during this period we feel happy and celebrate it.
It is proven that the Sun is important for us. It gives us sunshine, health, good crops, plenty of vegetation, rains etc etc. So with this system, on this day, 14th of January, the Sun starts coming to North (or Northward or Uttaraayan) from 23.5 degree South and that is why we celebrate its coming to us. So this is the reason and importance of this Sankraanti festival.
Read more about it at Makar Sankraanti
I am sure in Southern Hemisphere, especially in South Africa, in Australia, and in the southern tip of South America they must be celebrating the Kark Sankraanti in July when the Sun travels Southward.