I get very nervous when an Indian festival falls on a weekday. Most of them have an elaborate menu with specific offerings and a lengthy recital of prayers which is almost impossible to cram in the hectic weekday schedule. If our measure of culture is in the frequency of festivals we celebrate, I’m going to fail miserably.
Pongal is the harvest festival that pays respect to the sun god and cows, both of which nourish our lives immeasurably. This year it fell in the middle of the week. So we burped on the savory pongal, filled our memories with sweet pongal and looked out of the window in vain at the snow filled emptiness. How do we thank the sun god if he fails to make an appearance?
But if the idea is to be thankful for the bounty that fills our homes and stomach, then would celebrating Thanksgiving appease our Gods? While I am not in favor of a big bird slow roasting in my oven, can we not make our own holiday menu? While it is important for my kids to understand the significance of Indian festivals, shouldn’t they also learn to respect the holidays of the country they were born in? Does celebrating Thanksgiving make us more American? Can we not embrace a possibility for a happy marriage between the holidays of the host nation and festivals of our home nation?
Halloween is a ghostly all soul’s day involving scary costumes and candy overload. It is the day when the entire nation decides to participate in a very elaborate fancy dress competition. Holi, on the other hand is a celebration of colors. Nothing can be as merry as a gang of friends chasing each other with a handful of colors and getting high over bhang. If Halloween sounds silly to our immigrant minds, take a look at our smeared faces. How can we truly claim ourselves to be globalized if we refuse to look outside the window and join in on the ceremonies?
Festivals are a celebration, a celebration of family and food. It doesn’t matter which ones we celebrate as long as we send our children a consistent message – learn to appreciate the diversity while reveling in your uniqueness. Instead of clinging on to your nationality to give you an identity, embrace the world with joy. Growing up as an Indian on American soil need not be about making a choice to be either Indian or American. We can lead a hyphenated life where we learn to give thanks to the sun god with equal sincerity as we learn to give thanks over a roast turkey. What’s on the table is not half as important as those around it.
So this year instead of merely crossing off the festivals that we celebrate, there is going to be more thought on the reasons behind the celebration. If the journey is more important than the destination, it’s better to partake in the festivities rather than make excuses for skipping them.