Diwali: Not a Holiday to Take Light-ly

Halloween lights are becoming more popular these days. But before the strings of purple or orange fairy lights lit up bushes around my neighborhood, we often had green, yellow, red, and white holiday lights in October. For a while, I assumed it was people getting into the Christmas spirit REALLY early. But then I heard about an Indian celebration called Diwali—The Festival of Lights—and realized these lights had an entirely different meaning. Intrigued, I asked a good friend filled in some of the blanks about what the celebration of Diwali means.


The word Diwali means “rows of lighted lamps.” Given how diverse India is, there is rarely a festival that is celebrated all over India, but this is one celebrated by every Indian, including Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs. Diwali is celebrated over a five-day period based on the Lunar calendar. It typically falls after much of India is coming out of a dreary season of rainy monsoons, so in addition to the traditional reasons for this celebration, this festival of lights brightens up the mood and signifies the start of the harvest season with everyone celebrating their bounty.


Each day of Diwali has its own tale, legend, and myth. There are several interpretations of the reasons and origins of celebrations, but in all explanations, one common thread rings true—the festival marks the victory of good over evil. Light signifies goodness in Hinduism, so lamps, candles, and Diyas (or the modern equivalents) are burned throughout the day and night.


There are special sweets made for Diwali and often gifts are exchanged. Much like the Western holiday-season frenzy, many families use the Diwali holidays as a time for cleaning and fixing up their homes. Families decorate the outsides of their homes with lights and Rongolis—a decorative pattern created with colored rice, dry flour, colored sand, or even flower petals.


In India, fireworks are a common way to celebrate Diwali. In addition to representing light and color, the sound of fireworks is an indication of the joy of the people living on earth, making the gods aware of their plentiful state. Additionally, the smoke and fumes from the fireworks kill insects and mosquitos, which come in abundance after the rains in the season prior to Diwali.


This year, Diwali Day is Oct 30, so if you take your children trick-or-treating to homes with colored lights that don’t appear to be Halloween themed, make sure you say “Happy Diwali!”


Editor’s Note: And check out the attached article, “Holiday Just for Dogs!” all about Kukar Tihar, a special day during Diwali that recognizes the many joys dogs bring to people. This articles appears in the current issue of FACES Magazine. For more articles like this one, be sure to subscribe to FACES.


Diwali: Not a Holiday to Take Light-ly

Cricket Media Mama truly wishes the Christmas trees that show up at the Mall on Sept 1 were part of a celebration of some other holiday she hadn’t heard of such but sadly, that is not the case.

A Food Strike Requires a Fast Resolution

My daughters have never been daring eaters. They take after their dad that way. When I met him the most exotic food he’d ever eaten was beef fried rice. Personally, I’ve always been a pretty adventurous eater. I was eating oysters, octopus’s tentacles (which I insisted on calling testicles), and seaweed by the time I was six, so having kids who seem adamant on sticking to pasta, chicken nuggets, or burgers no matter where we go is somewhat heartbreaking. And my girls are smart on top of being picky. I can’t get away with hiding spinach in brownies or making creative plate pictures that would entice them to try something.


I get it. New foods can be scary. Weird. The textures are bizarre. They taste funny. You’re not sure where they come from, or what they used to be. And there’s always that irrational fear that if you try something, and don’t like it, Mom won’t give you anything else to eat again, ever. But I also understand that a limited palate can be… well, limiting. When my oldest daughter had the opportunity to travel through China two years ago, I was thrilled at all the new foods she would be exposed to. Instead, she came back 5 pounds lighter, having eaten nothing but rice and watermelon until they finally hit Hong Kong where she found a McDonalds. It was then I knew I had take drastic measures.


Introducing New Food Dinner


The first rule of New Food Dinner is you must eat new food. The second rule of New Food Dinner is YOU MUST EAT NEW FOOD. The third rule of New Food Dinner is everyone must eat something new. That includes my husband and even me.


Now the first two rules can be stretched. For example, you can eat a hamburger, if you are eating a style of hamburger you’ve never had, such as an ostrich or buffalo burger. Or try a burger creation with different toppings. You can get pasta if you have it with seafood or vegetables that you don’t usually try. But we also try to enforce New Food Dinner at New Food Restaurants, where we expand our culinary horizons to international cuisines, the likes of which you can’t find in a box in your pantry.


The final adaptation to the rule is that you only have to eat half of your plate. I’m willing to waste money on food for the experience of knowing it’s been tried. And if the kids truly hate it, they can rest assured they will not go hungry. There is an option to make themselves chicken nuggets or spaghetti-o’s when we get home.


The results have been mixed. Through New Food Dinner, my family has discovered new favorite foods such as shumai, samosas, pho, and babyback ribs. They learned they hate quiche, bibimbap, and anything with the word “jerk” in it. Sometimes the kids are excited about a new meal. Sometimes the struggle to get them out of their tried-and-true favorites is such that I dream of New Wine Dinners. But even so, I consider every New Food Dinner we embark on to be a success just due to the experience.


New Food Dinner happens the last Sunday of every month. We take turns picking which cuisine and location we are going to try. We often scour the menus beforehand so we come in prepared to do gastronomical battle with whatever is about to be served to us. With a plethora of worldwide cookeries to explore, we have yet to run out of options, but keeping in mind that taste buds change and palates expand, I hope that we will be able to revisit some of the same foods again, with different results, as we will eventually have to circle back around to New Food Dinner: The Second Course!


Editor’s Note: Thinking about starting a New Food Dinner tradition for your family? Why not pair it with a subscription to FACES, the magazine about people, places, and cultures all around the world. Reading FACES will help your family get acquainted with the foods from different countries before they try it. And many issues of FACES feature local recipes, making it even easier to bring New Food Dinner to your dinner table.  Check out the free article below about Palestinian Foods, including a recipe for a traditional Palestinian main dish called maqlouba (MAC-lou-ba). FACES and maqlouba…try them both. We think you’ll like them.


A Food Strike Requires a Fast Resolution


Cricket Media Mama’s favorite part of New Food Dinner is New Food Dessert. Who knew macarons, green tea ice-cream, or something called “gulab” would be so delicious?

Being a Good Sport May Take Some Medaling

Did you know race walking is an Olympic sport? Seriously, it is. After learning that I had to ask:  Do you train for that in a mall on Black Friday? Another interesting out-of-the limelight event is Steeplechase, which basically consists of a track with a giant puddle in the middle of it. Did you realize that was a thing? And when did trampoline move from the circus to the Olympics? Then there is the pentathlon…? I don’t even know where to start with that one. Oh, hi there. I guess you can tell that I’m brushing up on my knowledge of the Olympics in preparation for the Summer Games in Rio, kicking off on Friday, August 5th and continuing for 16 straight days until ending on Sunday, August 21st.


While the big events like swimming and gymnastics will get a lot of press coverage, learning more about some of these obscure sports would be quite fascinating to my family and would do a lot to foster interest in and knowledge of other cultures. I guess that’s why I love those “behind-the-scenes” videos of the athlete’s lives. Yeah, yeah, they can be contrived, but they do add a human element to the events and that can capture the more reluctant viewers. It’s rousing to watch the sacrifices the athletes endure to get to this level of competition. And the backstories and family drama that often gets played up in these pieces are as entertaining as reality TV shows.


As I recall from past Olympics, hidden in these short documentaries are great stories of inspiration and dedication, and they definitely do provide more reasons to root for Team USA in the popular summer events. But what I like to see is more human interest pieces that focus on either lesser-known sports or stories from athletes in countries outside of the USA.  For example, my daughter is now seriously rooting for equestrian Laura Graves after reading a bunch of stories online about how Laura and her horse “Diddy” grew up together, worked through some significant differences in how to train each other (which resulted in Graves getting thrown and breaking her back), and are now ranked tenth in individual dressage.


And think of the amazing cultural lessons our kids would get if our Lifetime Movie of the Week followed athletes from other countries for a season? Wouldn’t it be interesting to see how an athlete in Japan fits six hours of training into an already full school day? Or learn how third-world and rural countries improvise training facilities and equipment, yet are still able to compete against athletes who have top-notch resources? These stories can inspire us and help us see the world around us through a different lens.


With that in mind, Faces is a great compliment to the Olympic season, since it focuses on how children around the world live, work, learn, and play. For example, combining your knowledge of China from Faces, while watching the athletes from China compete, will give you an entirely new level of appreciation for their creativity, dedication, and the passion they have for their sport. Want to test it out for yourself? Download the attached article “The Land of Runners” about the love Kenyans have for their favorite sport. Read it with your family before watching the running races and see if the article helps make the race feel more personal and the Olympic games more exciting than ever before.


Land of the Rummers - Cricket Media


Cricket Media Mama is training for the Olympics. She is going for the gold in the competitive sport of Yelling ‘Go Team USA!’ and hopes to achieve at least a silver in Snack Consumption Over 16 Days.