Growing up in a Hindu-Catholic household, we celebrated a lot of festivals. We would light our house with diyas for Diwali, sing carols at Christmas, and in general have a lot of celebrations. And while the presents and new clothes were part of the excitement, they were certainly not the only part.
But in these days of obscene, 15,000-rupee crackers and enticing hoardings that demand our festival funds, there seems to be no question about not spending. The only question that seems to be is how to spend.
Are you worried that consumerism is all our kids associate with these celebrations?
How do we, as responsible parents, ensure that kids experince the real joy of festivals? We, at yowoto, came up with a few ideas..
Tell the story
"Things have certainly changed," says a teacher we spoke to. "The other day, my students from the fifth standard submitted their Diwali essays. I was horrified to see that few essays on the festival; in most, 'I want' was a recurrent theme!" Reclaim festivals from the clutches of marketers by focusing on their history and significance.
While kids must know the significance of festivals, young kids aren't able to look beyond their fun aspect, which is why parents seek creative ways (like the Muslim superhero comic-book series) to make the historical significance more palatable to the little ones.
To modernise and contextualise festivals, you could take inspiration from what Isky Patel, a Muslim man married to a Hindu, did. He was so frustrated with the over-the-top Christmas celebrations in his kids' school, that he created 'Imran Claus', a loving figure who the kids eagerly awaited on Eid. "It was easy to make them understand and enjoy our festival through a familiar figure they love. Parenting is about creative thinking after all!"
Focus on family
We really like festivals at Anne and Jagjit's home. The Makhijani household follows a no-gifts policy during festival-time. "It allows our kids to focus on the important part of these celebrations-the communal cooking and yummy food, the gaggle of cousins and other family that descend on our house and the laughter," says Anne. "So presents don't become the only thing the kids value about during these special times."
Give, not get
Use festivals to explain the joy of giving to our kids. "Of course one must buy during festivals," my mom used to tell me when I was little, "But only to give away." You could make an annual ritual of visiting an orphanage, giving away old clothes to the needy, or anything else to promote the joy of giving.