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Family, Culture, and Celebrations
Raising a child far away from home, I’m always wondering how to incorporate more cultural learning into my daughter’s life. To me, culture involves a number of things. It involves food, language, festivals, clothes, habits and more. We can imbibe much of our culture in our day to day life, by introducing old family recipes to our young ones and speaking in our mother-tongue. We can involve them in daily poojas and preparation for festivals too. Of course, you choose what aspects of culture you intend to pass on to your kids.
Culture is constantly evolving. However, it’s important to understand that while culture changes and evolves, values remain. The values you choose to imbibe in your child will stay with them for life.
This year, as my daughter is growing up and able to comprehend more and participate in activities at home, we have been involving her in various cultural activities. She has learnt a few simple prayers, does a simple pooja, and is aware when it’s time for a festival. We work on educating her on the story behind each festival in a simple manner and involve her in preparations wherever possible. Krishna Janmashtami is one of my favorite festivals and gives plenty of opportunities to involve kids in the celebrations. What’s not to love? Dress up, and yummy prasadam! I have been getting my daughter to participate in the festival preparations and I have some tricks up my sleeve to keep her engaged during the pooja.
Celebrating as a family
Here are some ways to get the children to participate in Krishna Janmashtami preparations and the celebrations
DIY – Arts and Crafts
DIY Arts and Crafts are an easy, engaging, and an educational way to involve a child in pretty much anything! Festival preparation is no different. Traditionally, a Rangoli of Baby Krishna’s feet are drawn from the entrance of one’s home to the place where the pooja is being conducted. Here is a small twist to this tradition! Trace your child’s feet (or draw small baby feet) on a sheet of paper, and allow them to decorate the outline however they want. Here is my daughter’s decoration, which while not perfect, was done by her and she was very proud of it. You could make more of these, cut them out and place them from the door to the pooja area instead of doing the rangoli (especially helpful for flooring where rangoli is not visible!). Another tradition followed in my family is preparing the Krishna idol out of clay, similar to the preparation of a Ganesh idol for Ganesha Chaturthi. In doing so, children learn about the story of the birth of Lord Krishna while using their hands to make something beautiful!
Prasadam or Naivedyam preparation
Lord Krishna’s favorite foods are all kid’s favorites. Crunchy, savory snacks? Lots of butter and dairy? Delectable sweets? Yes, please, and more! Involving my daughter in prasadam preparation here was a little tricky for me. While I love involving my daughter in cooking and she loves it too, deep frying with her around is a big NO in my book, because though she loves to participate I just don’t find it safe enough. Nonetheless, there are plenty of recipes that don’t require deep frying, such as this delicious no-cook Peanut Laddoo recipe. Remember to make your children’s favorites, for this is a festival for children. If your child (like mine!) loves cookies, make cookies and make them together! Or go traditional and make authentic ‘Bellam Atukulu’ and ‘Aval Payasam’! It’s all about making memories, and of course, your kids’ favorite foods, isn’t it!
Pooja and Festival preparation
Listening to stories about the festival is a great way to let them know why we celebrate. Or you could read books about Krishna! This helps children understand our culture in all its aspects. You could involve the children in making the toranam or arranging all the items for the pooja. They could even decorate their own Krishna diorama!
This is my personal favorite activity! Dress up your little ones as Baby Krishna while they are, well, little! A simple cloth dhoti would be great. Some fun props could include a toy flute, a bowl with cotton to serve as “butter”, and a peacock feather. Explain to your children how they get to pretend to be baby Krishna and pamper them!
Bhajans, Songs, and Prayers
Listen to songs and Bhajans about Krishna or better still sing them together! Here are some favourites:
1. Main Nahin Makhan Khayo by Anup Jalota
2. Krishna Nee Begane Baaro (Kannada Devotional Song)
3. Krishna Stuthi (Prayers) for Children
4. Achyutam Keshavam Krishna Damodaram
5. Venuganalolan (Tamil Devotional Song)
6. Murali Manohara
7. Telugu Devotional Songs
These are some of the ways I have chosen to involve my daughter in Krishna Janmashtami this year. I would love to hear about all the traditions you follow in your home, and about how you involve your children this glorious festival season!
Wishing you all a very happy Krishna Janmashtami!