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Just this morning, I was reading fellow mycity4kids.com blogger Ganesh V. ‘s blog post titled “Tradition - An Endangered Species”. His opening line of the article hit me square between the eyes - ‘Our crazed pursuit of all things new and modern (mainly Western) is threatening the survival of many of our ethnic traditions. If we want our children to experience the beauty and richness of our culture and heritage, we must do something immediately.”
As I read these words, I was reminded of my childhood and my exasperation for the many rituals followed for every festival. My patient mother explained how our ancestors probably had the foresight to see the world post modernization, when we would have time for social networks but not for real interactions. And for this time and age, different rituals were developed for us to celebrate these festivals, meet others socially, cook with love and remember our customs.
And so, the inspired mommy in me has decided to embrace all the little traditions that surround every Indian festival and make them as much fun as possible for my kids. The key here is to make every activity involved in the upkeep of the rituals interesting, encouraging kids to ask questions.
To start with, here are five fun things that we can all do with our kids this Sankranti. These are simple activities, all rooted in our culture and besides being fun, they will teach a lot to our kids. Make sure you keep your child involved at each stage and keep explaining the significance of each activity so that your child can co-relate it with the festival.
1) Kite Making and Kite Flying
Almost every child associates Sankranti with Kite Flying, but few know the relation between the activity and the festival. Sankranti is the day that the northward movement of the Sun begins; it thus marks the termination of winter season and beginning of a new harvest or spring season.
People fly kites on this day because by doing it unknowingly they receive the benefits of sun exposure. A sunny afternoon spent kite flying is a wonderful way to get some much needed sun after the cold winter. Involve your kids in making kites themselves and while they do this explain to them the significance of kite flying on this particular day.
2) Cooking and Eating Lip-Smacking Til Ladoos
For as long as I can remember, in the days preceding the festival we would stock up on ladoos made of Til (Sesame seeds) and Gur (Jaggery). On the day of the festival, these would be eaten and distributed amongst friends and family.
Til and gur have strong religious and cultural associations in the Indian society and eating them during this festival is considered auspicious and healthy, because of the health benefits that emanate from these two wonder foods. Sesame seeds have oil in them that generates heat in the body and so does jaggery.
If your child is a little older, you can involve him or her in the cooking process of the ladoos. For younger children, give them the dough once it has cooled down to make into the ladoo balls. I guarantee you will have as much fun as your children, if not more, in watching them get the oozy, sticky and yummy mess off their hands and shaped into little round balls!
3) Sankranti Rangoli Decorations
Rangoli, or “Muggu” as it is popularly called in Hyderabad, is a symbol to welcome wealth and prosperity into our house. Traditionally we have seen Rangolis being made with special colours but these days flower petals, rice, dals, wheat grains, etc are all being used to create “designer” rangolis. Motifs can be modified to blend in with the occasion and include abstract, philosophical, religious, geometrical, zodiac signs, fish, birds and flowers.
Kids are generally more creative than adults and while their work might lack the characteristic neatness of an adult presentation, their enthusiasm and joy in creating a work of art for their home will more than make up for the same.
4) Donation in Cash or Kind
Sankranti is referred to as the Festival of Donation and its mythological significance states that on this day everyone should donate their “ego” and thank the Lord for the bountiful harvest. It has been said that donations given on Makar Sankranti come back hundred times more in next birth. Spiritually, any kind of donation made to anyone who is less fortunate than us can only reap us blessings from the Almighty.
As a child, I remember accompanying my parents to the local old age home to donate blankets and bed linen to the residents. In the recent past, I have accompanied my young nephews to state run orphanages for donations of fruits, vegetables and grains. A simple trip with your kids to feed grains to pigeons or bananas to stray cows could also be considered an act of donation and would assume more relevance on this occasion.
5) Forget all ill-well, spread love, give Jaadu Ki Jhappis !!!
Sankranti is the festival of joy and thankfulness and for us to realize that our real wealth is the goodwill and friendship of our relatives, friends, neighbours and our environment. This Sankranti, encourage your child to be open about showing their love to family members. Encourage conversations, spend time together as a family and spread the love by that magic conundrum that has gone beyond Bollywood- a Jaadu Ki Jhappi !!!
Be charitable. Be generous. Spread peace, love and harmony. This is the essence of any Indian festival. Happy Sankranti!!!