Striking the Right Balance with Cultural Milestone Events

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By Anjum Choudhry Nayyar

A big wedding, a small wedding, a big first birthday, a big first Eid or small first Diwali? What would you do? How do you decide and do the grandparents have a say in what goes or doesn’t go? We asked you, some of our masalamomma readers this question to get insight into what’s worked and what hasn’t.  Sonia Kaur, a work-at-home mom,who  lives in Connecticut managing a leading online wedding resource www.indianweddingsite.com, threw her son’s first lohri party when he was just five months old.

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“We had a large Lohri party for our first child because we wanted an excuse for a big celebration and loved that we could tie it into a fun, cultural event,” said Kaur. “We didn’t know much about Lohri but learned a lot as we started planning. We didn’t want to throw an over-the-top 1st birthday party in a banquet hall, so this was a great way to introduce our son to our friends and family while giving everyone an excuse to do some bhangra! It was important for us to keep it traditional and tie in as many cultural elements as we could, while being inventive and introducing fun ideas. Most importantly, we wanted everyone to have a great time.”

Anita Sharma a mother of two young girls says having a big first birthday party in a banquet hall like most South Asian parents do, was not a priority.

“The 1st Birthday for both kids was big, but not too big!” said Sharma, a working mom and dentist in the Toronto Area. “I don’t believe in the doing the 1st birthday in a hall thing…I feel that’s going a little overboard!  We did have a party in the backyard for both kids first birthdays and invited all our friends and their kids.  The first birthday is really not for your child but for the parents. It’s a milestone birthday for many parents.  A celebration of your child’s first year of life and a celebration of surviving the 1st year of parenthood!  For many it’s also a way of blessing your child’s life and wishing many more such birthdays.  It’s the start of your child’s future and of their life ahead of them. The kids never remember their 1st Birthday but parents always will.”

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Some moms like Karen Johnson, a mother of two young boys Tarun and Nikhil, say a compromise on a big cultural milestone and birthday worked well for her family. She is a Catholic and her husband is Sikh Canadian.

“I went big for Tarun’s lohri,” said Johnson. “He was the first grand child and it was more for my husband’s family.  I wanted to experience the culture part of it.   “Tarun though, had a very small birthday but for Nikhil’s I went big on the first birthday due to his unexpected arrival and how much I went through with him. I kept his Lohri small and combined it with his cousin’s lohri because they were born 8 weeks apart.   I think its very important just to celebrate these milestones of life and culture.   The memories that are created are priceless.”

Amanika Luciani, a mother of young daughter says she wanted to keep her event simple.

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“We had about 50 people over at our home. No hall, no catering, just a good old fashioned home party. It was nice.”

The caliber of celebrations can also depend on the way grandparents celebrated the events back home. Deciding how much of those traditions to include can involve a give and take when it comes to elderly parents. Kaur says she was open to the parents taking on a proactive role when it came to planning the events.

“We couldn’t have planned this event without them,” said Kaur.  “They were our key to discovering the cultural traditions behind Lohri. While we had no idea what the exact traditional food items were, they ensured that we had the perfect favor bags full of popcorn, gajak, etc. We also choreographed a family dance to the song “Lo Aageyi Lohri Ve” from the movie Veer Zaara and had everyone in the family participate, from our little nephew to our parents. We would have loved to have a traditional outdoor fire but unfortunately that was impossible with the cold East Coast weather. So we compromised with a small fire pit that we brought inside the venue.”

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Here are some tips from some of our masalamommas:

Sonia Kaur, Connecticut mom: If you’re going to do it, go all out. We didn’t want yet another typical Indian party. So we introduced a choreographed family dance, traditional dholki time, a DJ, boliyaan with a dhol player, a fire pit to throw popcorn in, an ode to our parents in the form of a sher (poem) written by my husband, and more. We designed the invitation ourselves with photos of traditional dancers around a Lohri fire and requested that everyone wear traditional attire. We even found matching outfits for myself, my husband and our son to really get into the spirit. It was a great excuse to bring out the gold jewelry and paraandis!  It was a great way to throw a party in honor of our first child while also keeping our Punjabi traditions alive. Definitely a night we will never forget!

Anita Bhalla, mom of two young girls living in the Toronto Area:anitaphoto

I guess the person throwing the bash would have to ask themselves a few questions. Who is the party for?  The guests or the image? It should be about the child or whoever is celebrating something. Money is also a big factor. If you really can’t afford to do something then you shouldn’t. If having that ice sculpture means you dip into your savings account then it might not be needed. Also if people are you real friends they won’t care. They’ll just be happy to celebrate with you.

We want to hear your thoughts on this subject, send us a comment below! tell us how you did your child’s first big cultural milestone, did you go big or small and what elements did you have?


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