Category Archives: Indian celebrations

Celebrate with me!

This photo was taken a couple of years before his death. Here Duke is enjoying the New Year display. He’s gazing into his wise brown eyes and hoping the wrapped toy is his on the far side of the table!

April 2020

Has the mid-April blahs and stress got you down? Then I have a suggestion for you!

Join the millions of people from Kerala (and me) and celebrate the start of a New Year on April 14th. It is a simple ritual that will ground you and bring balance to your life. A note: While the celebration is linked to Hinduism, you don’t have to be a Hindu or even believe in God to share in this timeless ceremony.

So this is how you can get started:

On April 13th evening do the following:

  • Set a small hand mirror or a larger one on a small table. Use a dresser with a built-in mirror, if you have one.
  • Use a nice table cloth if you want. Totally optional.
  • Add a blossom, even a sprig or branch will suffice. Yellow is auspicious for this festival.
  • Next, raid your pantry for beans, lentils or rice. Place some of each in a measuring cup or fancier cups, if you have some. One cup (or less) of rice and one cup (or less) of bean/lentil is all you need.
  • Look at what fresh vegetables and fruits you have available. An orange, an apple, a banana, a bunch of kale, a butternut squash? You just need one of each, something to represent a fruit and a vegetable.
  • Do you have some change? A few dollars, some quarters? Add them to the table
  • How about a piece of jewelry? A pair of earrings or a ring? Arrange them on the display table.
  • Are you missing someone, a family member, a friend? Place a photo of them on the table. My table will have photos of my mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and a special uncle.
  • You will need a candle and some matches.

You have now created Vishu Kanni or New Year display.

On the morning of the 14th, get up and before your morning coffee (yes!), wash your face. Light the candle and sit in front of your display, if possible.  Look closely at the flower or sprig, the fruits and vegetables, the grains and legumes, the nice table cloth and the coins and jewelry. Look at the photographs of your loved ones.

As you gaze at the kanni, you are welcoming everything that is good into your life and future. Finally, look at your reflection in the mirror. All that is marvelous and wonderful is reflected in your eyes. Look deep into your eyes until you see the glimmer of hope and light that is in you. Invite all that is positive, prosperous and amazing into your life and into the lives of your loved ones.

You have now observed and welcomed in a new year, Kerala style. Happy Vishu 2020!

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Filed under Celebrations, dog's life, Happy Vishu, Kerala New Year!, Indian celebrations, Kerala, multi-cultural, my mother's kitche, new traditions, Nilgiris, Personal experience, remembering our ancestors, South India, South Indian, spring, renewal, Uncategorized

Christmas Memories

December 2019

Our memory of childhood traditions is what makes holidays so special. A unique ornament or the heady aroma of baking spices or the sound of laughter can evoke joy and poignant reminders of our past.

Growing up in India we celebrated a variety of holidays: Kerala New Year (Vishu), Harvest Festival (Onam) and Festival of Lights (Deepavali), but Christmas was not one of them.  However, thanks to our neighbors my family experienced the warmth of this special day.

It was the late 1970s and we were living in the hilltop town of Coonoor in the beautiful Nilgiris or Blue Mountains of south India. Our neighbors were Christian and invited us to attend a Christmas Eve mass at the local church. At first we were a little reluctant to celebrate a holiday in a church, a place we normally just passed on our way to school. As Hindus would this be an appropriate thing to do?

After a bit of thought, my mother had the answer. She held up her right hand and spread out her fingers.

“Pretend each finger represents a religion,” she said “The thumb is Hinduism; the pointing finger is Christianity and so on.  Each finger is part of the whole, the hand. Just like the fingers are united by the hand and merge into the wrist, I believe in the end all religions come together to become part of the supreme source.”

She added, “That’s why fighting about religion never made sense to me.”

So we accepted our neighbors’ invitation to the Christmas Eve celebration. The warm glow of candles, the scent of burning incense and the sound of Christmas carols (sung in the local language) became a part of an unforgettable experience for us. Later, our neighbors shared a plate of holiday cookies. Christmas that day tasted of nutmeg-spiked crackers, fruit cake cookies with candied lemon peel and the unique Kerala rose cookies or achappams. My sister and I savored the different and exotic flavors as the church bells rang.

My taste buds and heart still sing when I think of those long ago memories. Some things you never forget.

Wishing you all a holiday season filled with unforgettable memories! See you all in 2020 with exciting publishing news.

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Filed under Achappams, Blue Mountains, Celebrations, Christmas, Christmas Cookies, Christmas Eve, church bells, family, howiholiday, Indian celebrations, Kerala cuisine, meditation, multi-cultural, Nilgiris, Personal experience, South India, South Indian, Uncategorized