Dusserra’ was just round the corner, Halloween tricked us by, ‘Diwali’ is at a stone’s throw away and then, ‘Thanksgiving’ would march by. It is always overwhelming to celebrate so many festivals in the US. My kids enjoy all the festivals as much as I did when I was a kid. Enjoying Thanksgiving and Christmas with friends is a very common sight in the US. Dressing up for Green hog day or for Halloween is part of life now. But, I feel that it is very important for our kids to know the significance of each of our Indian festivals too.
With the overwhelming festive season all around me, I thought that going with the flow would be exciting and so thought of sharing my thoughts about it. Festivals of any country reflect the culture and traditions of the people of that country. Every country has its own share of festivals and festivities. Come to think of it, we celebrate Halloween and we celebrate Diwali for two different reasons, but they are a little similar, the jack-o-lanterns replace the diyas. Isn’t it interesting to know that Halloween is celebrated to wade of the evil spirits in harvest season and we celebrate Diwali because we were rid of Narakasur, an evil demon?!!
Bringing up kids in a non- religious country like the USA is a difficult job, especially when we Indians are from a religious way of life. There is a certainty and clarity about birthdays everywhere. But, when it comes to festivals of India, most of the kids born and brought up in the USA don’t know much about them. There are families who are religious and perform pujas religiously, but they fail to involve their kids. And there are yet some who don’t believe in rituals and so don’t celebrate any festivals. All they do is go to the temple once in a while and that too when the kids are at their dance class or at play dates.
Actually, there is always a feeling that people become more religious and follow rituals when they are out of their country or rather, in a foreign land. But it is not always true;this holds good only for a certain percentage of people, the ones that you see regularly in the temples. I strongly believe that wherever you are, kids need to know and follow the rituals of the house to some extent. My point is that if there is any festival celebration in the house, the kids should be involved. Let them know that Krishna was born on Janmastami, that Durga killed mahishasura on Durgastami, or why rakhi is celebrated and why Diwali is celebrated.
When we were kids, being brought up in the Orissa instead of Andhra Pradesh didn’t in any way hamper our celebrations of our festivals. Not only our Telugu festivals, but also we knew and celebrated the festivals of Orissa. ‘Sankranthi’, the harvest festival of Andhra was a big celebration for us in my house, as much as Jaganath Ratha Yatra was in the community. A festival called ‘rajjo’ which is celebrated for the girls of the house in Orissa was celebrated by my mom for me. It is said that Lakshmi , or Mother Earth, ‘comes to age’ on this day and so is celebrated by women for 3 days. Obviously, being a curious girl, I always asked my mom specifically why any particular festival is celebrated. That very curiosity is missing in our kids today and as parents I believe that it is in my hands to arouse that curiosity or keep the knowledge of festivals intact in the kids’ minds.
The eating of sweets for festivals shouldn’t be the only thing in my kids’ minds, they need to know why modak is made on Ganesh puja, why neem and mango chutney is made on ‘Ugadhi’ which is Telugu New Year’s day. For me it is as important for them to know that I make nine varieties of sweetmeats on Sravan month’s Fridays , as they know that Turkey is cooked for Thanksgiving on a Thursday! And you bet, they do!
I remember when my older daughter was in Pre-school, I was volunteering for Easter there. I was surprised when a white lady, one of the kids’ parents asked me why ‘easter’ was celebrated. Thanking all my ‘Moral Science’ classes in school in India, I told her about it and she was as surprised to know about it from me as I was to know that she didn’t know!! I sure don’t want my kids to go back to India and ask people there why ‘Sankranthi’ is celebrated or why we play with colors on ‘Holi’.
My daughters don’t have a brother, but they know the importance of Rakhi and tie one to their cousins. My kids search the moon for me from amongst the Seattle clouds for my ‘Karvachauth’ as much as they search for Halloween costumes in the stores. They love going to the temple for Diwali to play with ‘sparklers’ as much as they love to watch the July 4thfireworks. Isn’t that what it is all about, mould ourselves to the country we are in, though keeping our country’s culture intact?!!