A few years ago, I found that Diwali celebrations in the community we live in, were becoming too much of an adult affair, filled with dinner and gupsup, leaving out the children. To create pleasant memories for my young daughters, we tried a special way to celebrate Diwali at our home, a tradition that lasted for about a decade. Now, I am happy to see that it has become a hallmark of Diwali celebrations in many places in the community.
We called it an Open-House Diwali to mimic the Diwali I remembered from my childhood where guests whizzed in and out of our house through out the day. Every year, we would pick the Saturday closest to the Diwali day and hold an open house from 2 pm onwards. We schedule every hour with an activity that children can enjoy and is associated with Diwali. In the invitation that we send out a few weeks before the open house, we would list all the activities so guests knew ahead of time and can pick and chose what part of the open house to participate in. Typically we included rangoli making on wood planks that can be taken home once done, clay pot Diya decorating, candle making, henna design etc. We would provide all the material needed so guests did not have to worry about bringing anything. For first two hours, we would schedule activities that required creativity and ice breaking with other guests while Diwali music played in the background. These activities usually followed a sit-down and calm-down kind of activity that often included story telling or talking about Diwali or playing antakshari. The highlight of the day was aarti and dinner, which is when more adults joined us.
Guests chose to come and go as they pleased and decided to participate in the activity that appealed to their children’s mood and style. We suggested each guest to bring a traditional diwali dish made in their homes to share with others and to bring a few copies of that recipe so that who ever enjoyed the dish can take the recipe along for future use. The evening would end with light music.
During next ten years, we improvised on this basic theme of Diwali celebrations in which we started including simple recipes cooked by kids, a huge “community- rangoli” where any one can sit down, fill in some colors and move on, unannounced dress contest where the best dressed person got a special prize etc.
Though this Diwali open house started as a small gathering of close friends in our home, soon the word spread and we were delighted to see it grow exponentially where we had to rent a hall. The best part was that many people came forward to not only join but to help it make a success and my children still have fond memories of those diwali days.
Happy Diwali to all!