It has been 5 years since we moved to Bangalore. And the same year – 2012 I had my first baby. Needless to say, life has been a roller-coaster since then. We have all of the typical struggles a nuclear family has– balancing work and life, life and baby, baby and your own needs, your own needs and your passion, your passion and your desire to bring up your baby with all the things you remember from your childhood. And that is how the wheel turns.
But in the middle of this hectic life, you have to find those moments of silence when you revisit your core. And there is no denying that most of our core is shaped by the special experiences and memories your childhood carried. In India( and many other cultures), festivals come with a special aura and occupy a special place in our hearts. Naturally, you want your child to savour a bit of that delicious aura of Indian festivals.
The food my mom prepared, the walk I took with my Dad to the nearby Puja pandal, the way we got dressed in traditional clothes to celebrate the special day. Or the endless stream of relatives going in and out of home, the soft notes of music that floated through the air, the visits to the places of worship, meeting friends and sitting around chatting well into the night, the Alpana(Rangoli) my mother drew outside the home, the local swings that we insisted on sitting when our father took us to the fair in the park. Those are all my memories of the festivals, through my childhood years. And to say that I miss it is an understatement. But what worried me more when I moved to a city with no relatives or close friends, was that I might never be able to recreate this for my children? Should that have stopped me? It didn’t and neither should it stop you.
Festivals confer the special window of bonding time with family, and I wanted to make sure that I somehow kept the traditions alive for him even when we were away from home.
Here are some things that I did to make my son absorb the festivities and become a part of it with better and more ideas of bringing the festivals to my children, even if we can’t be with family, for all of them.
We involved my son in everything
During Diwali, from choosing the clay diyas to the colours of the Rangoli. From deciding our clothes to the wrapping paper for the gifts. From the songs we wanted to hear to the card games, we want to play. In every aspect of it, I involved my little boy. He was amused by some of it and excited by a lot of it. Seeing his harried mother out of her standard uniform of shorts and T-shirt, and into a beautiful salwar kurta was in itself a novelty for him! I think that involvement helped me to ease the idea of the festival into him.
We do it as a family
Our old dog Hope was scared of the sound of crackers. We started sensitizing our son about that and why we didn’t bring crackers home. As a result of that, we referred to the original meaning of the festival and its essence. And we did it as a family. So I didn’t make him go to sleep while we played cards as a group of friends ( I might be judged as a bad mother by the parenting police on that one 😉 ) but playing cards is a tradition in Diwali and more than the game, there is a lot of fun that it creates. What is a festival without that sense of fun?
We follow some tradition, we change some
My daughter is only a few months old, but that did not stop me from celebrating the first Raksha Bandhan between my son and daughter this year. I made it a big deal by dressing them up, taking special pictures, showing them the Rakhis. My son is older and can understand what it means, so I took the opportunity to explain it to him in words that he will understand “Siblings need to have each other’s back”. They both tied a Rakhi to each other. That is how we roll in our home because I know there are times when his sister will need to protect him and not just him taking care of her!
We use technology
Yes, you heard that right. We use technology extensively to remain connected with our loved ones more so during festivities. We didn’t have much of a Holi celebration here, but my son had a video call with my sister and his cousin in Delhi to see how it is celebrated. The colours, the water “pichkari” – it got him all excited! And the next year he was all gung-ho about it and knew what it meant.
We take time to visit
We visit our friends. We visit the Gurdwara. We visit the Durga Puja pandals. Festivals are all about getting together and visiting. So each festival is about making that effort to visit, instead of wishing on the phone. Earlier this year, my husband was travelling and I was pregnant with my second baby. My son was 4 years old then. Lohri is a big festival in North India. It has a lot of singing, dancing, throwing groundnuts into a large community bonfire. There are bonfires made almost in each house, each road, each apartment complex in Delhi. We walked around all over our area and didn’t find a single road where it was being celebrated. But I had promised my son a bonfire ☺ !!!
I checked up online and there was a big Lohri party in Palace Grounds. Booked tickets immediately and went for it. I cannot forget the thrill of seeing the bonfire, on my son’s face. Had we been with family, looking for a Lohri celebration wouldn’t have been tough at all. But as a nuclear family in another city, it was tough. We must make that effort because this is way beyond tradition. It is about one’s identity as well. And our children should be able to proudly embrace it.
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