A Celebration of Indian Holidays and the Foods That Drive Them

traditional indian food dish

Are you looking for exotic holiday experiences and ready for a culinary trip around India? The holidays in India offer a unique and colorful way to celebrate the seasons. From India’s intense colorful festivals to its diverse dishes, there is no shortage of flavorsome surprises. India’s public holidays offer many opportunities to enjoy the very best of its culture and cuisine.

Each holiday has special foods that make it even more special – from delicious appetizers, main courses, desserts, and drinks; these recipes can be life-changing. Here, we’ll explore nine Indian holidays and their associated foods so that you can learn what makes each of them unique! So, buckle down your seat belts because it’s time to take off on a flavor-filled adventure through India!

Maha Shivratri

Maha Shivratri is a festival of Lord Shiva and is celebrated across India in February or March every year. The main dish associated with this holiday is the Thandai drink which has a mix of almonds, poppy seeds, melon seeds, cardamom, pepper, and rose petals as ingredients. Another popular Indian grocery item for this special day is kheer, made by boiling rice in milk and then flavoring it with cardamom powder, raisins, and saffron.


Holi marks the start of spring in India, and it’s a festival that celebrates colors! A very popular dish served during Holi is gujiya – a sweet pastry filled with khoya (evaporated milk) and dry fruits like almonds, cashews, and pistachios. Other savory food items that are popular on Holi include pakoras (fritters), mathri (a type of deep-fried flatbread), and kachoris (stuffed dumplings).

Ganesh Chaturthi

Ganesh Chaturthi is a 10-day celebration that honors Lord Ganesha. During the festival, people prepare modaks – steamed or fried dumplings made from rice flour and stuffed with grated coconut, jaggery, and cardamom powder. Another traditional dish served during this holiday is puran poli – a sweet flatbread made with wheat flour, sugar, butter/ghee, and cardamom.


Dussehra is a Hindu festival celebrated across India in October/November every year to celebrate the victory of good over evil. This holiday’s popular food items include halwa (a sweet pudding made with carrots or semolina) and puri (fried flatbread). Other dishes associated with Dussehra include pakoras, chole bhature (chickpea curry served with fried bread), and samosas (stuffed pastries).


According to Hindu calendars, Diwali marks the start of the new year and is celebrated by lighting lamps and sharing sweets. People often make different kinds of sweets like laddoos (ball-shaped sweets), kaju katli (diamond-shaped sweets made from cashews), jalebi (a sweet twisted dessert), and barfi (milk-based sweet). Savory snacks like samosas, pakoras, mathris, and kachoris are also popular during Diwali.

Makar Sankranti

Makar Sankranti marks the start of spring according to Hindu calendars and is celebrated in January every year. In Maharashtra, it’s particularly celebrated as a harvest festival. Popular dishes eaten during this time include sweet delicacies like tilgul (sesame and jaggery laddoos), puran poli (flatbread stuffed with lentils), and ukdiche modak (steamed dumplings filled with grated coconut). In South India, the dish of choice for Makar Sankranti is Pongal – a rice-lentil porridge flavored with cardamom.


This four-day festival is held to celebrate the winter solstice and marks the beginning of the harvest season. The highlight of this festival is pongal, a dish made from rice cooked with jaggery, ghee, and cardamom. Other popular dishes prepared during pongal include vadai (deep-fried fritters), sweet pongal (made with rice, lentils, and jaggery), and kootu (a vegetable dish made with a variety of spices). 


Navratri is a nine-night festival celebrated in honor of Goddess Durga and her nine forms. During the festival, people make different kinds of dishes based on the day’s theme. Some common items served include sabudana khichdi (tapioca dish), aloo ki sabzi (potato curry), kuttu ka atta ke pakora (buckwheat fritters), and makhana ki kheer (foxnut pudding).

Raksha Bandhan

Raksha Bandhan is a festival that celebrates the bond between brothers and sisters. A common dish made for this day is malpua – a sweet pancake with cardamom, saffron, and raisins as its main ingredients. Other popular food items include kheer (rice pudding), gujiya (fried dumplings), and various types of sweets.


Janmashtami marks the birth anniversary of Lord Krishna and is celebrated in August/September every year. One of the main dishes prepared during this time is panjiri – a dry sweet snack made from wheat flour, sugar, ghee, and nuts like almonds, cashews, and walnuts. Other popular items include makhanas (foxnuts), kheer, puri, and halwa.


Onam is a festival celebrated in the Indian state of Kerala to mark the homecoming of King nahabali. A famous dish prepared for this day is sadhya – an elaborate vegetarian meal served on a banana leaf with up to 26 dishes! Items that are usually part of this traditional feast include thoran (vegetable stir fry), Olan (white gourd curry), and pachadi (a yogurt-based dish). 

Durga Puja 

This five-day-long festival honors goddess Durga and her victory over evil forces. Dishes such as khichuri (a mix of lentils and rice cooked together), labra (mixed vegetable curry), and payesh (sweet pudding made with rice and milk) are part of the celebrations.  

Enjoy Your Indian Cuisine!

India is full of fascinating holidays, rife with traditions, and celebrating the country’s favorite foods. From sweet to spicy, from light to heavy, these dishes provide more than sustenance to the holidays they accompany—they give a unique flavor to each different celebration. People outside of India don’t always understand why food choices are so closely related to traditional holidays, but we here at International Fresh Market do; that’s why we ensure that our selection encompasses all aspects of Indian cuisine and culture. 

With a variety of luscious spices, exotic produce, and freshly packaged items, we strive to bring the best offerings available on the market right up through your doors! Whether you’re looking for unique gifts or just need enough ingredients for dinner parties and large gatherings, our team can help curate a one-stop experience for all your Indian culinary needs. Contact us today to learn more about how you can get in on this delicious tradition.

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