After the Festive Season is over each year, I wonder why I did not make things a little more elaborately festive. This post is more in the category of a notes to self than anything else.
1. Plan for the festive season ahead of time:
I don’t know about you, but nothing is more annoying than to have a plethora of absolutely wonderful, DOABLE celebration ideas for the festive season after the celebrations are over! You feel such a fool. Not only must you wait a year before you can put all those ideas to use, but- more often than not- all your fantastic ideas disappear by the time the next year rolls around. And on you go, ad infinitum!
This year I shall not be thwarted. I shall plan ahead. If I manage to implement even 70% of my ideas this year, I shall bestow an achievement award upon myself. The award is nothing fancy- just a perfectly brewed cup of tea sipped in bracing solitude of the early winter morning misty hush.
2. Declutter and Clean:
Everybody (and their acing back) is familiar with the traditional Diwali ki Safai. It may be accompanied with a repaint job, or it may not. The fact remains that immediately after your Pujo pandal hopping- while your limbs are still protesting and your feet issuing notices of dire consequences- you are already gearing up for the Big Diwali Overhaul. For me this year, the overhaul is already under way.
I feel absolutely smug and virtuous about it!
Close to Diwali, with all the gazillion things we make for Diwali at Tissayra, the mad rush of customized orders that rains down upon us rendering us into headless chickens, there is never enough time for a proper Diwali ki Safai. And as all of us know, without a thorough safai, you don’t really feel you have the right to celebrate Diwali!
3. Aromas for a fragrant home this festive season:
This year I’m doing Aromas in a huge way. I’m going to make some awesome Aromatic Candles– perhaps I’ll reserve a few aromatic floating candles for myself too. The aroma mix I love the most is Lemon Grass+ Musk+ Lavender with just a hint of Bergamot. Or maybe I’ll try a Orange+ Lime+ Chocolate mix too this year. Oooh, I’m so excited already!
Also, with such a lovely collection of Aroma and Reed Diffusers, surely a few ought to be put in around the house! Last year I remember making a few aromatic candles in the intact semi-spheres of sweet-lime rinds. That was a super hit idea. Everyone loved those impromptu candles to the hilt. I’m now imagining those candles with a lint of lime and orange fragrances! What a treat!
Last year we did not use any fairy/ twinkly lights. Our whole (somewhat humongous) house was decorated with a superb collection of earthenware Diyas. We used the plain terracotta diyas on the terraces and the hand-painted Diyas and Diya Thaals from Kolkata inside the house. The effect was stunning. There is something magical about an oil-burning terracotta diya that can bring energy and light to your heart like nothing else can!
The super gorgeous 21 diya thaal (see pictures below) we bought from Kolkata last year was truly, spectacular. To my unexpected (and welcome) surprise, the diya thaal cleaned up completely after use with hardly a the worse for the wear. I shall use it again this year and I know it will look as gorgeous as it did last year. I see that gorgeous thaal becoming a part of family tradition. Now that’s a happy thought!
5. Decor ideas:
Diwali is not complete without a few traditional touches to the decor. Every year we satisfy ourselves with a fresh flower Toran over the main entrance door- made with giant marigold balls from the garden. This year, I shall use two of my most beautiful handmade Torans on the three side/ subsidiary entrances we have.
I’m definitely putting together some Kundan Rangolis on the two coffee tables and one on my long craft-room work table. I would have liked to put one on the dining table too but I must leave room there for FOOD!
6. Stock Food/ snacks:
Ah FOOD! What is any celebration without all those delicacies we wait the whole year for? All Diwali sweets are made at home in my house. Aromatic Besan ke Laddoos, Flaky and sweet Gujhiyas, the super convenient and quick Apple Kalakand and melt-in-your-mouth Gulab Jamuns! Maybe I’ll go more into Apple Kalakand instead of Gulab Jamuns this year, since it has neither added fats nor sugar.
To chase down all these sweets, there must (of course) be some savory snacks. Spicy Khasta Kachoris and the milder Mathhis and Salonis would work perfectly! If time permits, this year I also want to make Chaklis at home. I want to try making them with some garlic and lots of green chillies! Slurppp!
Then there is the traditional Diwali dinner. For some reason unknown to me, my mother made it a tradition to made Palak Paneer, Jeera Rice, Alu-Gobhi ki sabji and Pooris for Diwali dinner each year. After her, I found no reason to deviate from the menu. So that’s about the food!
7. The Gifts:
I have never been big on store bought gifts. I’m even less into compulsive, mandatory gifting. But the festive season is a time when friends and family have time to gather together. A thoughtfully selected gift is surely the best way to show your loved ones what they mean to you.
This year I plan to put together a few gift hampers with some of the handmade goodies from Tissayra. The most appreciated combo, I have been told, is a Kundan Rangoli, a Handmade Toran, an Aroma Diffuser or an aromatic Candle, a small Pooja Thali, a Potli full of dry fruits and/or some delicious, handmade fresh chocolates.
All of these goodies go into a beautiful box which is decorated with lots of brocade and golden lace. It is so much fun to watch a loved one open one such package. The pleasure on their face is the stuff celebrations are made of, aren’t they?
8. The Worship:
Lastly, I must plan the Diwali Hawan. We are Arya Samajis so our Diwali worship is a good, hour long havan which makes the house smell divine for many days after. I don’t know how that happens, really. It seems as if all the positive energy from the havan gets deposited and absorbed in unexpected pockets all over the house.
Though the havan is always held on the ground floor, I can smell its aromas in all the rooms of the first floor too. There is definitely some deep alchemy at work in the whole process!
To me, there nothing as satisfying as as a havan. It takes me back to my childhood when I was introduced to the havan by my Naniji. I can still see her, sitting on a low stool, her head covered with her seedhe palle ki saari ,presiding over the havan effortlessly reciting the mantras by heart. Perhaps, that is the reason I love Diwali so much. It connects me so completely with my roots.
How do you celebrate Diwali? Are there some particular traditions and practices that have become an indispensable part of your family lore and have been followed for years every festive season? What’s YOUR Diwali menu? Do you vary it each year? Do let me know!