Here’s what I want to do to make festivals more memorable for my kids

making festivals memorable for kids

I just finished celebrating Onam last week. Small as my family is, I find it exhausting and satisfying in equal measure. I grew up with a mother who put a lot of effort into festivals. Like all mothers from her generation, she cooked, cleaned, decorated and dressed up for the celebration. Since I grew up outside my home state, we celebrated many festivals, all with equal effort. My childhood memories of Diwali are textbook: early oil baths, lighting lamps, loads of savoury snacks, many sweets. My mother made a great effort in making every single thing herself, as did my neighbours’ mothers. We knew that because all the snacks and sweets would be exchanged in all the houses. They would broadly be the same, but each of them tasted entirely different from house to house.


It was the same with the lamps, and the decor, and the way people wore their clothes. Everything was the same and everything was different. Even today, the glow of the lamps, the preferences in snacks depending on which houses they came from, friends and neighbours dressed up, all are etched sharply in my mind. The memories are as clear as if it was all yesterday.



Every festival that I celebrate, or let go past me, I have a conversation with myself. Should I do the things my mother did and give my children the same kind of beautiful, hectic memories that I have of festivals, or should I give in to the current easy-way-out behavior where you buy snacks, go out to dinner, or get food catered, and your only contribution is to shop and get dressed up on festival days? As a working mother, I really don’t have the energy for the elaborate preparations one needs to make in order to ‘properly’ celebrate a festival, even if I have the time. But this time, during Ganesh Chaturthi, my kids and I made besan laddoo. This was soon followed by Onam for which my parents were visiting. My mum went the whole nine yards: polished, shiny lamps, the sadya on banana leaves, two payasams, pookalam in front of the house, everything. And I can’t tell you how involved and joyous my kids felt. The memories they will have of this Onam will truly be precious.


It got me thinking about convenience versus making memories. What are your best memories? Summer holidays and festivals, I am guessing. But these days, summer vacations are tiny and/or expensive. Not many of us go back to smaller towns, because our parents live with us. Or our parents live in cities. Festivals are rushed because both parents are working and, let’s face it, a woman does all the work during festivals. So what are the memories that we are making with our children? Dinners? Foreign vacations? Sports achievements? I am not really sure, but seeing the joy on the face of my kids this Onam, I decided I was going to make more of an effort this Diwali. I am going to be making chiwda, chakli and barfi at home. I am going to actively participate in the cleaning of the house, get my kids involved in the scrubbing and the sprucing and the sorting. I want my kids to know that festivals are hard work, too. Not just pretty clothes, pretty lights and good food. Because at the end of hard work is exactly that: joy, love and light.