In Part I of the Diwali Series, you read about my Diwali morning dwelling in nostalgia whilst enjoying some hot chocolate and marshmallows making memories on a rainy day.
(There is a lot going on in today’s post and not all of it may read coherently. Please excuse any choppiness.)
Soon after sipping on our hot chocolate and marshmallow, while Aaron and TJ played, I ordered Indian carryout for lunch. Theoretically, we should be eating Indian vegetarian food on a religious auspicious day but we are a multicultural family and that means we sometimes do things differently. (We are also a multiracial and multireligious family) Part of being a multicultural family is that you have to be flexible with how you perform traditions. If that flexibility means forgoing exclusive vegetarianism on auspicious days, so be it.
Until last year, I would have cooked something for lunch and insisted we all eat vegetarian food. This cooking would have added to my anxiety because of all the other festival related sweets I still had to make later in the day.
This year, I just gave up or rather, gave in, to the power of carryout food. I called an Indian, okay it HAD to be an Indian restaurant and ordered some Chicken Biryani, Chicken Curry, and two Garlic Naans. Ho-Hum and So-So.
The Indian sweets or mithai that I planned for this year – same as last year, Kaju (Cashew) Burfi and Besan Laddoo were on my mind even as I was eating lunch.
Last year, I remember my arms ready to come off my shoulders, tears ready to roll down my cheeks into my pregnant belly, and legs ready to jelly into a puddle on the kitchen floor as I stood by the stove in the kitchen stirring the besan for over an hour. Even the delicious fragrance of the roasted besan wafting into our kitchen and living room did not help. I was exhausted beyond words and even considered cancelling Diwali.
Those thoughts do come to my mind sometimes. Cancelling holidays. Just so I can breathe. And, I am not just talking about threats to cancel holidays when my son refuses to cooperate by smiling for family pictures.
The stress of events always wears me down. Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely enjoy actually celebrating the special days of the year, having people I care about celebrate it with us, sharing in our celebrations, and enjoying each other’s company and food. I really, really do. It is when I am in the midst of all the prep that I sometimes get too exhausted to care.
Oh, but I care. I care deeply because eventually, it is about rituals. It is about family traditions. It is about giving my children memories to draw from.
Family rituals have many a therapeutic benefits. The predictability of rituals and traditions is known to provide stability to kids starting with their formative years and running well into adulthood. The calm assurance of doing something routinely is also known to influence quality of relationships.
Rituals are our legacy to our children. I absolutely believe in imparting some to my kids and not in a preachy, “let me teach you about our rituals” kind of way but simply by observing them organically in our lives and having the kids imbibe it through osmosis and active engagement.
That is why my stress levels go through the roof during our holidays. I want to establish family rituals for my kids. I want my kids to be able to say that this or that was what they did every Diwali or Hanukkah or Christmas. Of course, I want the memories of these rituals to be fond and not forced ones so I totally get it that my stressing myself and them, defeats the purpose a little.
Still, I forgive myself knowing that we are very young family and we are only just starting our process of creating rituals. I have no template on how to establish family rituals for a multicultural and multiracial family but I am learning.
Already, in two years since having TJ and starting to care about rituals, I have learned that carry-out or delivered food is best for lunch or even dinner so I can simply focus on the more important things that matter to me which are…
Making Indian sweets and having the fragrance of that cooking last a lifetime in my children’s memory banks and enabling special moments like when TJ ran away with the entire box of laddoos and then dropped them all over the carpet laughing deliriously while I pretended to be upset,
Lighting Diwali lamps or diyas and basking in the glow of that calming light,
Saying a little prayer together as a family and hopefully have the kids participate in it at some point (and not just respectfully stand by as I sing the religious song alone),
Wearing Indian clothes and regaling in the glorious colors and accessories that are a quintessential part of Indianwear,
Taking family pictures even with all the drama, threats, and bribes, and
Lighting sparklers to end the celebratory evening and remembering the smiles and laughter of my kids ring louder than the crackling sounds of the sparklers.
Rituals are what we make of them. Diwali has stressed me out every year for the last three years since I started caring about what we do and how we celebrate this day. When Aaron suggested I consider what is most important to me and focus on that instead of trying to do everything I could recollect from when I celebrated it in India, a light bulb went off.
Being removed from the cultural context that is India and being so, so far away from my family, I have had to make my own traditions. They may not be perfect but they work for my family. My kids may not be able to speak Hindi (which is not my native language anyway) or any of the hundreds of Indian languages but if they grow up with an appreciation for Indian culture, at least to a very small extent, I will feel happy to have done my job.
After all, when the focus is on building rituals and making memories then even the seemingly mundane ones – where we are carving pumpkins on the kitchen floor for Halloween the following day at the same time that I am also making Kaju Burfi on the stovetop, TJ refusing to light sparklers this year, my having to threaten TJ with cancelling Halloween if he did not join us for a family photo, Baby E dressed in my beloved grandmother’s hand stitched dress as part of her Diwali attire, my white Canadian husband willingly applying the red kumkum on his forehead along with my hyphenated Indian kids as we all stood by my little home-temple while I sang a religious song and prayed for everyone…make Diwali special.