Thursday, October 16, 2008
As Devis with Babies in the 1.5- or second-generation category, our knowledge of Indian culture is pretty random. We may be able to remember the ingredients of herbal cold remedies our moms gave us, or know the names of the major Hindu gods, but we'll have no idea what that mystery spice in our kitchen is, or what exactly happens in the Ramayana.
So celebrating holidays can be a crapshoot. I have some vague recollections of how we used to celebrate Diwali. I remember a puja my dad used to do involving gold coins, kumkum and water that was apparently from the Ganga. I remember my mom making tons of of "sweetmeats" in the weeks beforehand. And the best memory of all: On Diwali night, I remember going through the house switching on the lights, and not being scolded, as I was every other night, for not turning them off.
Now, suddenly, I find myself responsible for my daughter's future memories of Diwali. It’s a major holiday, and I want her to experience it in some way. But I’m not going to do a puja because I have no idea how to, and I definitely am not making any "sweetmeats."
So, as I often do when I am perplexed about decisions in life, I turned to the Internet and cobbled together this list.
Ten Insta-Culture Ways to Celebrate Diwali With Your Child!
1. Going along with the Diwali theme of lights, string Christmas lights up outside your home. It will make the neighbors wonder.
2. Buy diyas, available at all Indian stores right now, and light them around your home or in a particular room. Then, open up the doors and windows. The significance of this is apparently that if Lakshmi sees your home lit up and open invitingly, she will enter, thereby gracing you with prosperity for the year to come. (And who couldn’t use a little prosperity right now?)
3. Better yet, make your own diyas with your child. Use self-hardening clay to create a little bowl. Glue a tea light inside of it, and use paint to decorate it. Fairly simple.
4. Spread the wealth: Donate to a charity, whether it's local or in India. Involve your child in deciding which charity to donate to, and make it a yearly family tradition.
5. Have a gambling party. It's done all over India, since this is meant to be a particularly auspicious time of the year, paisa-wise.
6. Create a rangoli design with your little one. In India these designs are done at the front door using colored chalk powder, colored rice and spices. Since I have no idea where to buy colored chalk powder, and I'm not going to food-color rice anytime soon, I'll probably just use some colored paints, and rip off the rather nice rangoli designs here.
7. Exchange small gifts with friends. Last year, my friend gave little diyas to her friends' children, personalized with their names. She also got us a children's book about Diwali. I was super impressed.
8. When your kid asks you, "Mommy, what is Diwali?" don't get panicked -- whip out a book! Here are some more Diwali books for children.
9. Buy sparklers and watch your kid squeal in delight. If you're adventurous, and if your local area allows it, buy other kinds of legal fireworks and set them off. I will stick to sparklers since I'd rather not burn the house down.
10. Hang out with other devis who know what they're doing. Then, copy them. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?
How do you plan to celebrate Diwali?