For youths and adults, Dashain holidays are more a matter of relaxation. But what does it mean to the children?
Dashain is observed by most Hindu Nepalis across the country and many parts of the globe. It is also the longest festival celebrated. People tend to mark their calendar and try their best to be home with their family members and beloved ones leaving the difficulties and sorrow behind. Schools give the longest holidays. People start to move out of Kathmandu or they start coming in from various parts of the world to be with their families. For youths and adults, Dashain holidays are more of relaxation, but have we ever looked into it from children’s perspectives? What does Dashain mean for them?
For my eight years old daughter it is about playing swing, flying kites, being with family, putting tika and receiving dakshina. Few decades back, Dashain would start with the coloring of the houses, cleaning the community roads, washing the curtains and so on. I have not understood yet why these things had to be put off for Dashain.
As a child I also used to envy few things: Long holidays, being at your relatives’ place, get together with your siblings and cousins, getting new clothes and going to maternal uncle’s home. Shopping was not so frequent during those days. We had to wait till Dashain for new clothes, if any special occasion didn’t fall in between. Of course getting dakshina was always the special part. I was never tired of counting the money.
For my daughter, coloring house and washing curtains do not come associated with the festival. May be this is a generation gap.
For us, with time and age, things and their values changed. Dashain blessings became more important and meaningful than dakshina. The holidays are more symbolic to togetherness and relaxation with family members. Dashain gives everyone a reason of happiness, reason for being together and enjoy good food.
We can make Dashain the occasion of learning for the children. We can teach them through the story of Durga’s victory over Mahisasur and thereby the victory of good over evil. We can tell them the stories associated with each day of Nawaratri (nine days of worship).
Children get a long break from their scheduled routine and get time to be with their parents. They get to enjoy the nature, see different life styles of people, and observe a lot of happenings. If not now, they will reflect on these observations when they grow up. Free playing makes children more creative. People in Western culture usually plan for long trips and visits with family members during long holidays. We can do something similar for our kids here.
Children get the opportunity to observe the life styles of people other than those living in Kathmandu, where they live with access to internet and other facilities. Most children today live in nuclear family. During Dashain they can spend time with extended family members and get a chance to have a closer look into our culture.
During the course the children develop a sense of belongingness. For instance, when they have to wait their turns for putting up tika they will teach others to do the same. According to a research, spending holidays with family for children is like making an effort to understand families. When they are together with other members in the family they learn family behavior. Children often learn communication and interaction patterns and emotions while being among adults.
These days even those living abroad have get-togethers and celebrate in groups during Dashain. Such celebrations are seen through social media. Our culture remains alive wherever we remain. Many progressive schools these days are focusing much on providing in-depth knowledge and information, through celebrations. The good part of it is that children start observing the same at home and thus it helps to develop their cognition.
Our family gatherings will teach our children the strength of being together. Even my daughter who is busy with her ipad and computer during most of her free time is looking forward to flying kites and playing swing. I am glad that she will have a great time enjoying the nature, which she’s been missing a lot.
Being with friends makes children collaborate and mix up with everyone. This will make children independent and confident. Since children play a lot during Dashain, it will increase their appetite, at the same time digestion will also improve due to the healthy exercise through playing.
One thing we need to take care of is safety. Dashain is also the time when the children have to travel long distance in crowded buses. We need to ensure that our children—wherever they play—are safe. We also need to make the children aware about the safety issues.
If we can ensure these things, Dashain can be made a truly amazing experience for our children and thereby for us adults.
The author, an educator, is the Director of Aksharaa School, Kandaghari, Kathmandu