This is more like my festive wish-list. It may feature more of what is celebrated in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Gujarat - the places and customs I am more familiar with. There are some that I have made and some that I hope to, in the future.
If there is anything you would like me to add here, or some special festival and food associated with that, that is unique to your region, do let me know. Would love to learn about it and add it in here.
Sankranti / Uttarayan / Pongal
This festival comes on 14th January ever year. It is celebrated as the harvest festival in Tamil Nadu and the farmers have a 3-4 day celebration. Uttarayan means the movement of the sun towards the North and is celebrated by kite flying in Gujarat. Read more here about the kite flying. Makara Sankranti is celebrated on the same day ad the Sun entering the zodiac sign of Capricorn or Makara, as per the Hindu calendar
Undhiyo / Mixed root vegetables with puris
Til chikki / Sing chikki / Sesame or Peanut brittles
Sakkare Pongal / Sweet Pongal
Arachivittu Sambar / Mixed vegetable sambar with freshly ground masala
The festival of colours. It is celebrated as the victory of Prahalad and his faith in Vishnu. Holika who was granted the boon to remain immune to fire was burnt down, but Prahlad who was sitting in her lap came out unharmed because of his devotion to Vishnu. There is usually a bonfire lit the signify this. It is essentially celebrated as the end of winter and beginning of spring and on Rangapanchami, it is celebrated with colours.
Ugadi / Gudi Padwa
Celebrated as the beginning of a New Year by people in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. Traditionally, neem and jaggery are eaten together to signify that the year ahead may have bitter and sweet moments and we need to accept both in our lives
Here's the Mangalorean / Karnataka menu for Ugadi
Raw mango rice
Tamil New Year
The Tamil New year is celebrated on April 14th, usually a fortnight after Ugadi. There is a huge spread / saapaad, of many courses of rice, vada, payasam and of course, raw mango pachadi, the star of the meal for this day.
Raw mango / Maanga Pachadi
Janmashtami / Gokulashtami
It is believed that Lord Krishna loved butter, milk and curds. Since Krishna is believed to have been born at midnight, the puja is usually doen at midnight. In some fmailies, they fast the entire day and eat only after midnight.
Also there's legendary story of Sudama bringing poha for Krishna. This Curd poha is something that is always made during Gokulashtami in our family
Dhaiya Phovu / Curd Poha
Gauri puja and Ganesh Chaturthi
Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated on a grand scale in Maharashtra, and its more of a social festival. People in big apartments pool in and buy a big idol of Ganesh, decorate it and decorate it and have some event every evening, lasting from 1 day to 10 days. The idol is then immersed in the seas with teary-eyed people singing "Ganpati bappa morya, pudcha varshi laukar yaa" (Bidding farewell to God and asking him to come back the next year)
Gauri (mother of Ganesh) puja is always performed a day before Ganesh Chaturthi and is a big festival in Karnataka and Maharashtra. It is also celebrated as Hartalika Vrat in some states in North India.
An all time favourite with us, and a uniquely Mangalorean speciality for Gauri puja is Patoli - coconut and jaggery steamed in turmeric leaves. The other food for this day is very simple and usually cooked without salt. Rice is also cooked with coconut and turmeric leaves and served with a simple stir fry of locally available greens
Narlya Kheer / Rice cooked in coconut milk and turmeric leaves
Ganesh Chaturthi is the biggest feast back home. There is a whole lot of food cooked on that day. I have never made it all on the same day because it is really too much for just us to have in one meal, but I hope to, sometime in future
Phodyo (Fritters of breadfruit, potato, bitter gourd...)
Kakdi kocholi / Cucumber salad with coconut
Madganey / Chana dal kheer in coconut milk
Navratri / Dussehra
The Tamilians celebrate Navratri by keeping 'gollu'.Nine steps with different types of dolls are decorated and kept for nine days. In Bengal, Durga Puja is one of the biggest festivals. In Gujarat, its nine nights of dancing Garba and Dandiya almost all thru the nine nights.
Sundal for Navrati
Fafda and Jalebi
The beautiful festival of lights, where the family gets together and celebrates by lighting lamps and the sky is lit up with some amazing fireworks at night. A time for a lot of sweets.
(I am ashamed I don't have anything to list here, but I promise, I soon will)
The holiday spirit is on with a lot of gifting and goodwill. Rich plum cakes are a staple for this season apart from some very region specific cookies and kalkals
Fruit cake with coffee and almond liqueur
Chocolate walnut pudding