Written by Shashwathi Sandeep and published on 18 June 2021.
Pongal is here! Wondering how you can make the occasion extra special and memorable? Well, get your tiny tots actively involved in the festivities. Read what other parents thoughtfully do!
Stalks of long sugarcane, vividly-colored clay pots and vibrantly-decorated cows — these are the heart-warming sights that go hand in hand with the thanksgiving festival of Pongal!
Being one of the most popular and loved festivals of South India, Pongal, welcomes the harvest season and is specially marked by its distinct traditional rituals and exuberant celebrations. Families come together to honor and celebrate the auspicious new beginning in their lives!
When it comes to traditional festivals, there is a lot you can teach your kids as these present an awesome learning opportunity to explore the ethnicity and origins as well as learn more about the rich Indian culture, traditions and rituals.
Well, here are a few interesting ways to not only teach your kids about the festival but also, engage them in the celebrations. Let’s hear from a few parents who involve their children every year in Pongal preparations and encourage them to actively participate as well.
Lavanya Venkatesh and her daughter Shreya are from Chennai follow all the traditions of the festival with great enthusiasm. “It is a four-day affair at home. My daughter sorts out her own clothes. But, instead of burning old clothes, we donate them to an orphanage,” says Lavanya
Shreya’s involvement does not just stop with that. In fact, the young girl also helps her mom choose an eye-catching kolam design. Once her mom is done drawing the kolam, Shreya decides the colors that go in. “My daughter also helps me in cooking special dishes and assists with the puja preparations too. She is involved every step of the way and enjoys being a part of the festivities,” adds Lavanya
The scenario is not very different from what C Buvaneshwari and her two daughters Akshaya and Ashmita from Chennai, Every Pongal, the family heads to their native land, Mahabalipuram, where they celebrate Pongal together in a traditional way.
The girls go with their dad on a visit to the nearby market, to choose the right pot, sugarcane and other essential items for the rituals. “My daughters love putting the colors for the kolam and setting up the clay pot in which we boil the Pongal rice that we offer to the sun,” says Buvaneshwari.
The respective rituals of each of the four days are followed to perfection. On the last day, they offer mixed rice to the crows — her daughters also wake up early to take part in this ritual. “We believe that by following these rituals, our family will be blessed,” adds Buvaneshwari
In Karnataka, the festival is celebrated as Sankranti. Bengaluru-based Roopa S and her two daughters Pragna and Prakruthi, get busy in preparing yellu (a mixture of white sesame seeds, jaggery, dried coconut and fried gram dal), a few days ahead of D-day.
“The girls help me mix it all together and it is a game for them. And then we put the mixture into little packets. Yellu, sakkare achchu (sugar-moulds in different shapes) along with a piece of sugar cane, is then distributed among family and friends,” says Roopa
She believes this festival is great for children, as they are the ones who are supposed to go and distribute the mixture, especially to homes with girl children. “Since our relatives live far away, I drive my daughters to their homes. The girls love wearing traditional dresses and jewelry. They look forward to visiting relatives too,” adds Roopa
So, this is how Lavanya, Buvaneshwari and Roopa get their children involved, every year. These moms also have a list of tried and tested tips on getting their children to participate in the festival.
The younger, the better. When your children are about three or four-years-old, start talking to them about the stories behind the festivals and why certain rituals are followed. Make it fun and interesting in the process.
For example, while you are drawing an intricate kolam, ask them to help too. Most children love to draw and are excited to try something new. The kolam might not look perfect, but it will make your children feel good. They will be thrilled to contribute something beautiful towards the harvest festival.
Most children enjoy going to the local market. During festival time, these places throng with people, stalls and sellers. You get to see a variety of colorful items being sold. So, take your children along when you go shopping so that they get to experience the sights, sounds and smells of a bustling marketplace.
Ask them to choose the sugarcane, the decorated pot in which you will boil the rice and the flowers that they like. Also, buy them some shimmering ethnic wear of their choice. This is sure to get them excited about the festival and all that it has in store for them.
Most children love it when you give them responsibilities; it makes them feel important and that they are being taken seriously, just like an adult. So, put them in charge of decorating a portion of the house or drawing the kolam outside the house. This will give them a sense of ownership. Be sure to appreciate their effort, once they are done!
Around the time of the harvest festival, there will be events in and around your locality to highlight the significance of the occasion. Take your children to these shows. Let this be a teaching moment as you explain what harvest festivals all are about. The ambience will set the right mood too!
This is a time when families get together and enjoy four amazing days of festivities. This year, don’t just let your children sit in front of the TV or play video games; instead, involve them in the celebrations. Children love festivals. Sometimes, all they need is a little nudge or a push in the right direction and they will be unstoppable. Here’s wishing you and your family a happy Pongal!