October 2011: How do we get our kids to look beyond the commercialisation of festivals?
Growing up in a Hindu-Catholic household, we celebrated a lot of festivals. We’d light our house up for Diwali, sing carols at Christmas, and generally, have a lot of celebrations. And while the presents and new clothes were part of the excitement, they were certainly not the only part…
But in the days of obscene 15,000-rupee crackers and enticing hoardings demanding our festival funds, there seems to be no question about not spending—the question is only how to spend. Are you worried that consumerism is all our kids associate with these celebrations?
How do responsible parents ensure that kids really know the real joy of festivals? We’ve come up with some ideas—and would love to hear yours.
Tell the Story
“Things have certainly changed,” says a teacher I spoke to, “The other day, my kids in the fifth standard submitted their Diwali essays. I was horrified that few focused on the festival; in most, ‘I want’ was a recurrent theme!”
Reclaim festivals from the clutches of marketers by focusing on their history and religious significance.
While kids must know the significance of festivals, young kids aren’t able to look beyond their fun aspect, which is why parents seek creative ways—like the Muslim superhero comic-book series—to make religion more palatable to little ones.
To modernise and contextualise festivals, you could take inspiration from what Isky, a Muslim married to a Hindu, did. So frustrated was he with the over-doing of Christmas in his kids’ school, that he created ‘Imran Claus’, a loving figure who the kids awaited on Eid. “It was easy to make them understand and enjoy our festival through a familiar figure they love. Parenting is about creative thinking after all!”
Focus on Family
We really like festivals at Anne and Jagjit’s home—the Makhijani household celebrates present-free. “It allows the kids to focus on the important part of these celebrations—the communal cooking and yummy food; the gaggle of cousins and other family that descend on our house; the laughter,” says Anne. “Presents don’t become the only thing the kids value about these special times.”
Give, Not Get
Use festivals to explain the joy of giving to our kids. “Of course one must buy during festivals,” my mum told me when I was little, “but only to give away.” Make an annual ritual of visiting an orphanage, giving away old clothes to the needy, or anything else to promote the joy of giving.
Anyway, Diwali’s here. All of us at Yowoto wish you and your family a happy, fun-filled New Year!
This article appeared on Yowoto—a now-defunct parenting website startup that I helped incubate as Editor-in-chief—in October 2011.
While I’m now a firm childless antinatalist, my politics weren’t fully formed when I took this short-lived assignment to explore the digital side of publishing (though it was never a good fit). Nonetheless, some of the articles I wrote at the time are interesting.