Updated: Aug 13, 2020
File this under things no one tells you to expect once you become a mom:
you actually look forward to holidays! Halloween is my jam. Even Christmas is starting to feel more merry. But our Indian holidays... from tying rakhi, to lighting diyas, to throwing colors, it creates a sense of excitement that I frankly didn't anticipate. Now, with a 3.5 year old and a 5 month old, I see myself becoming the person I used to scoff at pre-kids: "so extra!" I totally get it now. Time is fleeting, but pandemics have a way of slowing us down to find joy in the simple pleasures in life.
Like celebrating Janmashtami, for example. Growing up, we celebrated it like clockwork: dress up in nice Indian clothes, go to the temple, and swing the jhula Krishna would be sleeping in. We'd stick around for aarti, get prasad and head on home. It was like going to a birthday party -- but not the fun kind. To be fair, this is exactly what I did last year too, except in addition to my parents, I also had my toddler in tow.
As I see my kids getting older, I've started making a conscious effort to not just celebrate our Indian holidays for the sake of it, but try to truly get them involved in a variety of ways to get them excited. I've listed seven ideas to help us do just that -- and can attest that at least five of these are easily doable because I've done them myself ;-)
Make a Feather Crown - Just as Anna Wintour has her black sunglasses and Michael Jackson had his fedora, Krishna had his peacock feather. There are certain things people wear so regularly that it becomes a part of their visual identity. A peacock feather is said to have all the seven colors of nature and it appears bluish in the day and black at nigh (sort of like Krishna himself). Thus, Krishna wore it to symbolize the entire range of humans/nature and symbolize the almighty that resides within all of us. If you can't dress the (entire) part, make do by creating a simple feather crown with the help of this instructional video. All you need is construction paper, glue and a scissor!
Dress Up as Krishna - Whenever I saw moms dress up their kids as Bal Krishna, I used to think it was cute but never really saw the point in doing it. Of course, that all changed after I became a mom. Two kids later -- I get it, no explanation needed! Funny story actually... I first dressed up Naavya using random items from her room: a dupatta from one dress, a different dupatta from another dress, bottoms from a third dress, Mardi gras beads from Dollar Store, and a homemade paper feather crown. Somehow I managed to hack something adorable together. When I sent that photo to my parents, my Mom suddenly remember that she had bought Radha & Krishna costumes from India a long time ago. So I was able to capture the girls in both types of outfits -- the "DIY" and the "ready-made" -- and to be honest, I love both equally (I mean, kids and their costumes, haha).
Create a Q-Tip Painting - For materials, you'll need a pencil, a handful of Q-tips, watercolor paper, and paint. First, start by drawing an outline of the piece with a pencil, and then dip one end of the Q-tip in black paint to go over the entire outline. Follow this process with a new Q-tip for each new color your introduce. Below is just an example of an abstract Krishna painting I found on Google (here's the inspiration I liked), but you can do this with a variety of abstract pieces easily available online. Let it dry for a few hours and voila! If you have a playroom where you can showcase your kids' artwork, this one is definitely worthy of being framed!
Make Makhan - There are three things Krishna loved as a child: his mother, Radha and makhan (cultured butter). It's said that he practically lived off of it but I guess when you're a God, you can get away with a really poor diet (#NoJudgement). To see why Krishna was obsessed with makhan, there's only one way to find out: eat it! But rather than buy it from an Indian grocery store, why not turn it into a fun activity with the kids and make it at home? Check out this recipe from a Masterchef herself, Hetal Vasavada on how to make homemade makhan.
Buy a Pinata and Pretend It's Dahi Handi - Look, I realize how silly and farfetched this sounds, but if you have enough kids around, this may not seem so crazy. In fact, it might actually be fun. (If it is, let me know because I haven't tried it yet)! If you're like me, chances are you've likely see Dahi Handi played in the past, but didn't know that's what it was called. It's essentially a team sport wherein people form a pyramid in an effort to break into a pot of makhan, that's hanging 30 feet (give or take) in the air, from a tight rope. It's just a fun way to bring people together to celebrate Janmashtami and recreate a (dramatized) popular scene from Krishna's childhood of him stealing makhan, with the help of his friends, from people's homes.
Listen to Flute Instrumentals - since Krishna always used to put everyone into a trance with his bansari beats, get into zen (or dance) mode with these personal picks of mine: - Kisna - OMG (Oh My God) - Krrish - Bol Na Halke Halke - Ishq Hua Listen to this music as you're making makhan, baking a cake, dressing up the kiddos, or doing any of one of these aforementioned activities. But with music as soothing as this, do you really even need an excuse to listen to it?
Bake a Cake and Sing Happy Birthday - OK, so this technically isn't specific to Janmashtami, but I did this for Hanuman Jayanti recently with my daughter, and it was a hit! My mom made seero (sooji halwa), molded it into the shape of a small bowl and lay it flat on a plate, put a candle on it and sang happy birthday. (I told my daughter that Hanuman has a special song that we have to sing so we listened to the Hanuman Chalisa as well). For Janmashtami, we'll swap singing Happy Birthday with the Maha Mantra, which goes like this: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare Hare Rama, Hare Rama Rama Rama, Hare Hare
I like to spread out these ideas over the course of a week rather than do everything in a single day, depending on everyone's mood (mine included). The whole point is that we teach our kids to acknowledge the day as Krishna's birthday so ultimately, however you choose to do it is the right way. Now go celebrate!