Imagine growing up in a big multigenerational family. There's always someone's birthday coming up -- whether it's your kid's 5th birthday, your husband's 40th or your mother-in-law's 75th.
I find our Hindu culture to be somewhat similar. With so many deities to worship, there's always a reason to celebrate. Whether it's Janmashtami, Ganesh Chaturthi or Diwali, each of these holidays are deeply rooted in theology.
Not only do these holidays present a great opportunity to further connect with our Hindu culture, but they're also a great way to spark curiosity in kids about their roots. Growing up, my parents always made me and my two brothers participate in all religious and cultural festivities at home. As children, of course, we thought it was a bit of a drag at times, but I remember my parents always saying, "We're doing this for you guys. So that you can learn to appreciate our culture, and maybe some day pass it on to your kids." And all those years, it would illicit a bit of an eyeroll, but now, as I stand here with my three little kids, I totally get what they meant.
This Saraswati Puja I did at home was more for my kids than for me. (But first, here's a refresher on what exactly is Saraswati Puja, also known as Vasant Panchami or Basant Panchami). It was so that they could take a break from dancing to Encanto to sing the Saraswati mantra for a change. And to remind them that Jai Jais are sometimes just like us -- they have birthdays too, which deserve to be celebrated.
In our home, we usually add a little twist to traditions, and this "birthday party" was no exception. Here's the traditional way some people celebrate Vasant Panchami.
Here's how we celebrated it this year (in 2024):
- Dressed up in yellow clothes (not necessarily Indian!)
- Included the following items:
- yellow food items that the kids naturally like to eat. While I would have loved to include something a bit more traditional like halwa or mithai, I didn't want it to go to a waste because of my picky eaters. It was important to me because I consider any food we serve to God during Darshan as prasad. So, I opted for goldfish, banana, yellow m&m and plantain chips.
- Yellow roses
- Yellow markers
- A book with a yellow cover on it -- luckily, we have not one but two within our own Modi Toys books collection
- And of course, our Saraswati Devi plush toys
- We lit a diya, recited the Gayatri Mantra, asked for blessings, and ate prasad. I also brough a blank piece of paper and had the older two kids write "Aum" with the yellow marker. I then explained to the kids how Saraswati Devi is the symbol of knowledge, music and arts so that whenever we want to pursue endeavors like singing, arts & crafts, music, reading, writing, etc., we should think of Saraswati Devi.
- That's all!
And here's what we did last year (in 2023):
- Since we just moved into our house, I don't have a proper mandir yet, so I created this make-shift puja setup right beneath where our idols are kept.
- Vasant Panchami is marked by the color yellow, because it represents the mustard fields that begin to bloom around northern India in time for Spring. As per traditions, we all dressed in yellow (and I quickly realized how little wardbrode I own in this color). I then placed a vase with faux yellow flowers (mainly because I forgot to pick up real ones - #momlife), made some yellow colored rice (with food coloring). I also added a banana and gold fish as prasad, because I wanted to ensure it would be something my kids would actually eat. You know you're not allowed to waste prasad!
- I placed our medium sized Saraswati Devi plush on top of my notebook that I use daily, and I placed the small sized Saraswati Devi on top of our Bookish Bundle, which my kids often read. I also grabbed some yellow pencils from my daughter's bookbag and a pen from my office that I use daily.
- I then had my 5 year old daughter write "Om" on one of her homework sheets, and I helped my younger daughter (who's almost 2 years old) trace "Om" on the plate of yellow rice. (As your kids get older or as they develop more hobbies, you can also include things like music books, instruments, paintbrushes, ghungroos, skates, etc.)
- I then lit the diya, placed it in a thali, and sang these five mantras along with Saraswati Devi by squeezing her belly.
- After we sang all five mantras, we sang happy birthday, blew the candle, cut the cupcake and ate our prasad.
As the goddess of knowledge, music, art and speech, we seek Saraswati's blessings to enlighten us in our pursuit of creativity and to excel in whatever we do. Ultimately, no matter how you choose to commemorate the day, I hope it was filled with cherished memories.
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Modi Toys is a children's brand of toys and books inspired by ancient Hindu culture. We exist to spread joy and to spark curiosity in the next generation through our innovative soft plush toys, illustrated children's books and free learning resources. Our weekly Theology Thursday series covers a wide range of topics rooted in Hinduism to help us better understand the origins of traditions, the symbolic meaning of rituals, and the stories behind Hindu holidays and festivals. The more we can understand "the why" behind this 4,000 year ancient religion, and make sense of it in this modern age, the greater we can appreciate and preserve our rich Hindu culture. While we take great care in thoroughly researching the information presented, we may occasionally get some things wrong. We encourage a healthy and open dialogue so we can learn together. Please leave a comment below or email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to address any concerns.