First Annual Sanrkanthi / Pongal Party!

beginnings of bhogi pallu

Today two new traditions were born.

The first is what will become our annual Sankranthi / Pongal party.  The second is a commitment among our friends to start regularly celebrating all major Indian holidays together in a more formalized way.

This afternoon, our friends hosted a Sankranthi party at their home.  Having grown up in India, both parents are eager to pass down traditions of home to their kids while living in New Jersey.  To that end, we did a bhogi pallu for the kids, as well as a circle share of favorite Sankranthi traditions.

For the uninitiated (as I was before today), bhogi pallu is meant to protect kids from evil forces, and bring health and prosperity to them as well.  To begin with, the kids were meant to be wearing new clothes.  Our hostess had setup bommala kolluvu with various gods, some decorated coconut, fruit and flowers.  The kids had fun with the pooja, dropping the flower petals over the gods and fruit, or even just playing with the gods/fruit a bit.  Incidentally, our daughter was the youngest in attendance (11 months) but was the most interested in this part!  She continued her own pooja long after the others had run off to play.

Then was the main event for us: bhogi pallu!  For this, we had all the kids sit on the couch while each of the adults took turns showering them with a mixture of small fruits (we had cherries), coins, uncooked rice, and flowers.

Our hosts also had us all sit in a circle and go around sharing our favorite Sankranthi / Pongal traditions and memories.  Though sure, some of the kids were too excited to sit still, this tradition is in it’s infancy, and for those who participated it was a wonderful way to learn about the holiday, whether for the first time, or to see it a new way through the traditions of others.

When we got around to me, the hostess told me that I could instead talk about Thanksgiving (as my quasi-equivalent harvest fest).  I proudly shared a Pongal memory from one of my trips to India, but she pressed me to also share a Thanksgiving tradition.  I was actually put off at first, but then I realized that she was actually just trying not only to be all-inclusive, but to truly share harvest festival traditions cross-culturally.  Later, my husband also reminded me that though her kids are growing up in NJ, they aren’t participating in a traditional Thanksgiving celebration (apart from crafts or lessons at school), so my host was actually trying to teach her own kids something new as well.

We also enjoyed a wonderful spread of Indian food, including garelu, burrelu, puli hora, pulusu, payasam, and daddojanam.  As it happened, our hosts had called in an auntie to do the lion’s share of the cooking.  In a year where I’m contemplating “outsourcing” more of my life, this was a welcome idea.  Sure, I LOVE to cook, but I tend to want to go overboard, so when going overboard is called for, it might be better to outsource it to reduce stress, focusing on a couple key dishes to contribute.

And speaking of opportunities to overdo it, the second tradition begun today was an agreement and a plan to celebrate all major Indian holidays in the next year (and hopefully beyond).  It was my hubby’s idea, actually.  It occurred to him that the way my family rotates the hosting of various holidays was a good way to set expectations ahead of time, and allow everyone to plan where to be and when.  He decided we should do the same for Indian holidays, so we first agreed on the holidays we should celebrate as a group: Sankranthi, Holi, Indian Independence Day, Diwali and Christmas, and then got people to commit to hosting their favorite (we’ve got Christmas! :-)).

How do you like to celebrate Sankranthi / Pongal with your kids?

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