Diwali, fusion and artistic traditions

I’m heading off to my parents’ place today to (finally) start learning how to make all the traditional Diwali festival foods or ‘faral’. My cooking skills don’t stretch too far, and I guess mum knows that, so she’s teaching me one item per year. It’s going to be a slow process, but hey, better than nothing. This year it’s ‘shev’. You can find the ready-made stuff in the Indian food stores. Home made is much better. Yummo.

I’m doing this, even despite my distaste for cooking in attempt to try to preserve some of my favourite cultural traditions, so I have something to share with my kiddiewinkles, if and when they turn up. I can’t rely on mum to be making all the festival foods forever, as much I’d like to wish that could be true – on all levels.

Diwali, the festival of lights, is what I describe to my non-Indian friends as the Christmas-equivalent for Hindus. And much like Christmas, some of the specific religious meanings are lost on me, I confess, (as I’m sure they are for many), but what the festival does signify to me is the bringing together of my family.

Festivus for the rest of us – my fusion festival season, where Swedish Santas watch over Rama’s Diwali lights.

This has always been such a warm time, of shared traditions. Drawing sand pictures (rangoli) to decorate the house – I did this with my grandma and mum over the years – perhaps my first artistic foray. Watching the pantry fill up with Diwali-specific foods as my mum went on cooking overload for weeks in advance, and then eating all that yumminess together. Getting dressed up and feeling re-connected to my Indian-ness. Exchanging good will and blessings and gifts – traditionally husbands give wives gifts, and brothers give sisters gifts. I was so excited to welcome my brother in-law into the family because it meant I finally had a brother. I don’t mean this in a (completely) greedy way – yes the gift part of it is fun – but it was more like this Diwali tradition solidified his status as my brother. That’s what felt much more exciting. We all gained new awesome family members.

This is the beauty of being Indian in heritage, Australian-born and married to a Chinese man. I get to pick and choose all the best bits and fuse them into my own new Super-Multi-Culture. My sister has the Christmas ham covered, I’m hoping Mr Lee might get into the vegetarian cellophane noodle dish (what’s that called again?? Help please, someone Cantonese) and who knows, maybe I’ll be the Diwali one? I’m aware this may require a lot more cooking classes. But no point dreaming small, I say!

What are your fusion festival traditions?

(And yes I am aware that most of mine involve food.)

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