19 Aug

One of the harder things about our South meets West Indian marriage is that festivals and celebrations are more complicated.
There are the festivals that only my family celebrates, the ones that only the husbadoo’s family celebrates and the ones that both our families celebrate but in different ways.
The ones celebrated by just our individual communities / families are ones we choose to ignore at this point , unless we have a set of parents staying with us at that time.
The first year of our marriage, my mom voiced some disappointment that I would not really have a Tamilian ‘noombu”( probably spelling it wrong, but this is the festival where women pray for their husband’s longevity and tie a thread on their wrists. Actually think there are 2 a year – one with a thread on your neck and one on your wrist. Anyway, you get the idea) celebration. She could have explained how to celebrate it to me, sent me the thread etc , but she just seemed so disappointed and then let it be. I was also 23 years old and really didn’t care much for cooking something elaborate and going through the motions of a celebration that I did not press her for details.
So the Tamilian festivals fell to the wayside for the most part with some minor exceptions. I have made pongal a few times for Pongal and have cooked some traditional stuff for Tamil New Year but that’s about it. Even this festival related cooking ,I hesitate to do if my in laws are visiting us. Somehow I feel it might hurt their sentiments if I celebrate my own festivals with them in the house.
Oh side note, every member of my husband’s family wished me a Happy  New Year for Pongal the first few years till I explained it was a harvest festival and not the new year!
Regarding the Gujarati festivals, my in laws never went into explaining them to me or ever even mentioned that we should consider celebrating them – be it cooking specific dishes or performing specific pujas or anything . In my attempt to continue to maintain my identity and not lose it all in the marriage , along with firmly not changing my name , I have never bothered to ask or find out what these festivals are and how they are celebrated in their family. The husbadoo has only a faint recollection of most festivals and is not a knowledge bank on his traditions at all.  I am not proud of this practiced ignorance on my part but at the same time I did not want to adopt my husband’s while giving up mine and have to deal with my folks commenting that I was fully ‘converted.’
Maybe some of these fears were irrational and unfounded but I felt and still feel sometimes, that we are walking a delicate path of balance between our families and that I should not tip the scale anyway.  There are moments when I feel this phase of balance is past us but then every now and again hurt sentiments raise their ugly head. 
Guess the only way I would have been satisfied with this situation would be if we celebrated both family’s festivals and traditions every year. This to us was not practical when we both work full time and are often told about these festivals only on the day of through a casual phone conversation .
Now we come to the common ones – Diwali, Ganesh Chaturti, Navaratri, Janmashtami to name a few.
These we have come up with some sort of blended approach to celebrating. We have done this purely without any inputs from our families (we have never really sent pics or anything and they might not even know we celebrate these) and they are truly are own traditions so to speak.
Our childhoods obviously influence the traditional parts we have added . This year for Janmashtami , I made a rough undhiyo flavored subji , custard as a sweetdish and we also had some beaten rice, milk and curd as our offering . We were out of butter but I don’t think God would mind particularly. I did not do the traditional footprints  from the door to our alter as I had no rice flour. And it was going to be extra work to vacuum . Plus I do think God can find his way to our house.
We did not don any traditional wear as I honestly don’t even know which packed suitcase even has our traditional wear , we haven’t worn any since moving to NYC and have no space in our tiny closets to even have it out. Bandar clamored for custard , which we told her would be served after prayers. We sat down in front of a lit lamp and said the one or two relevant chants we knew and played a 6 minute shlok on YouTube. We bowed down and thanked God for each other and our families and that was it.
It was really just simple and no fuss and really just ours. Yes, maybe in the future we might go to some greater lengths to get this right but for now this feels fine.

9 Responses to “Festivals”

  1. Dil On The Rocks August 19, 2014 at 1:54 am #

    Thoughts on my mind exactly. 🙂 And I get this for every festival too. I am sure you do too. I don’t know if its guilty feeling when I don’t celebrate as our parents do. I celebrate all festivals when my parents are with me. Now I am making a conscious effort to celebrate at least something for the sake of kids. 🙂

    • popgoesthebiscuit August 19, 2014 at 2:08 am #

      Yes, celebrating and making each festival meaningful for the kids is constantly on my mind too.:)

  2. Zarine Mohideen August 19, 2014 at 11:53 pm #

    As Muslims we celebrate only two festivals, so its very convenient for us. But I don’t go the extra mile of making elaborate lunches because its just the two of us. I always think that when I have kids I should do it.

    But I have to have pongal on Pongal. Its a growing up in Chennai thing. My husband, who grew up in Dubai can never understand it though!

    • popgoesthebiscuit August 20, 2014 at 12:06 am #

      You know, before we had a child I always thought I would go out of the way to celebrate festivals , make them really memorable and meaningful. But now that we do have one, its hard to change and establish a means of celebrating. Right now, we are just scrambling along and trying to do what we can. Hopefully we will establish some solid customs of our own for just our little family soon.
      He he about the pongal bit. I never grew up much in Chennai despite being born there so have not really witnessed a traditional celebration myself but do associate eating pongal with lots of ghee as the most interesting part of the festival.

  3. magic August 20, 2014 at 7:06 pm #

    me and G both like celebrating festivals….

    both Mom and mil give me suggestions or on how to to the festival, but i mix both our traditions when we celebrate that festival from both sides and make a unique for us kind off….

    but if its only G’s side my mil guides me but sometimes she is like only Bhramians can do en all so i just let it be but when it comes to my side of festival i obiviously i have no problem sigh 🙂

    and yeah i do the noobhu, tying the yellow thread en all …

  4. tandooripanipurilife August 25, 2014 at 8:18 am #

    Heyy, heyy.. I nominated you for Liebster Award. Can’t wait to read your answers to those interesting questions 🙂

  5. Kavs September 3, 2014 at 1:15 am #

    It’s weird, I just keep missing my home, my time spent with my parents and my sisters around each festival. For my husband and my lil girl’s’ sake I try to do something special, a tiny bit of what my folks used to do when we were kids. Yeah, as S grows up I will make more effort in celebrating festivals – especially the ones which we have such fond memories of so many years later.
    A and I are both Maharashtrians, from the same community – so though we were both raised in similar style, a big difference is that his family doesn’t celebrate Ganapati! While we went totally crazy during the 10 day Ganeshotsav. The orthodox ladies in his family believe that if anyone from his family does celebrate. Ganpati, guess what, that person won’t be happy again. I know, I don’t even try to argue and talk sense into these ladies’ heads. A and I have decided that for S, our festivals and celebrations will just be happy times, a way to connect our childhood memories with hers.

    • popgoesthebiscuit September 3, 2014 at 1:59 am #

      It’s interesting that your customs are so different too. You said it perfectly in the last line- a way to connect our childhoods with ours kids’

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