09 December 2008

Bhai and Didis

My husband has a very close relationship with all three of his sisters. He was the youngest, the pampered only son (I like to say that he was the "little raja") and his sisters still compete to show him affection. As his wife, I've been warmly welcomed into the brother-sister relationship and the celebration of the brother-sister holiday Bhai Dooj (just after Diwali) is one demonstration of that.

Bhai Dooj is celebrated in North India by brothers and sisters. Brothers give their sisters a gift (usually cash) and sisters perform aarti to their brothers and give them a gift of food or sweets. This demonstrates the bond of love between the siblings both now and into the future.

This was the first Bhai Dooj they've spent together in years, and the first since we got married. This time I was included in the ceremony too. Each sister performed aarti, put tilak (red paste) and rice grains on our foreheads, and gave us a gift. It felt really special to experience the ceremony with my husband and all three didis. Afterward, my little niece performed the ceremony with her cousins (honorary brothers).

Here is my youngest SIL putting tilak on my head as part of the ceremony:

If you go out in public on that day, you'll see lots of men and boys walking around with tilak on their foreheads, a symbol of the devotion their sisters have for them!

Twice the Holidays!

We've been back from India for more than three weeks now but I haven't gotten a chance to write! Jet lag, plus getting back to work and getting caught up, plus having Mummy with us (yes! She came home with us!!) just didn't leave me much spare time.

I realized that we've been celebrating holidays basically non-stop since we went to India. First there was Diwali, then Bhai Dooj (more on that later), then Thanksgiving as soon as we got back, and then Advent started the following Sunday, and Christmas will be here before you know it! That's one of the really cool things about being in an intercultural marriage--we get to celebrate twice the holidays! It's been really fun to introduce Mummy to Advent and Christmas too...we got her her own chocolate Advent calendar (because yes, I haven't given up that childhood tradition myself yet) and we'll be getting a tree this week.

But--back to India. I had such a wonderful time on this trip: it was so much more relaxed than last time (with the wedding planning, etc) and we got to just spend time as a family, shop a lot, eat a lot, and see more of Delhi.

Celebrating Diwali in India was a wonderful experience. It's definitely a family kind of holiday, when each family stays at their own home to celebrate. We decorated Mummy's apartment with marigold and leaf garlands, rangolis, lights, and dozens of clay diyas filled with mustard oil. Here's my hubby with the garlands:

And here's me making a rangoli:

Here's Mummy and me lighting the diyas for Diwali pooja:

After the pooja, we went nearby to my husband's oldest didi's house for dinner and patake ("fireworks"). People are seriously crazy about fireworks at Diwali in India! Fireworks that would be illegal here, or only allowed to be lit by the town fire department where we live, get set off by families all over the neighborhoods. And ours was no exception. It was fun, but since I was wearing a silk lehenga I stayed well back and enjoyed watching my husband revert to childhood as he played with patake.

This firework is called "anar" which means pomegranate:

And here's my husband having the time of his life:

The city of Delhi fills up with smoke from all the fireworks being set off all over the place that night. It's not easy to go to sleep at Diwali time because of the noise, and for many nights afterward you'll hear people setting off their leftover patake! A few times we were riding a rickshaw at night and had to be really careful not to ride too close to where someone was setting them off in the street.

I'll try to write a little more in later posts about what else we did in India.