When you move your life from one part of the world to another, you often see a very big shift in culture. You hear new languages, see new ways of life and experience new festivals.
Our first big move from India to Africa was rather cushioned because my husband’s employers housed us Indian families in clusters. We were such a tight-knit group of Indians that we celebrated Indian festivals in Abidjan with more fervour than we would back home. Over 50 of us would gather to throw colour on each other at Holi, elaborate talent shows were organized at Diwali, prayers and poojas were held and when there was no festival as an excuse, we just gathered to celebrate life.
From Africa we moved to Canada; another huge leap. We were greeted in this new country by freezing rain, followed by warm smiles from locals as spring broke through. As we watched leaves cover the trees left bare from winter, we started watching people’s houses get decorated with huge pots of flowers. Flowers hung from roofs, flower pots lined up along walking paths, flowers in the gardens and flowers on the porch. Truly, these people celebrate spring like one celebrates a festival.
Come summer, we heard the excitement building up about Canada Day. I hadn’t thought I would have much to do with the festival, but as it turns out, the enthusiasm catches up with you. We ended up buying Canada hats and T-shirts and joined throngs of Canadians walking down to the lakeshore for Canada Day fireworks. It was late in the night when the display of fireworks ended with a special burst of red and white lights. One could not, but experience a sense of thrill in being a part of it all, standing by Lake Ontario with thousands and thousands of proud Canadians humming Canada’s anthem.
I have seen Canadians celebrate harvest time with such fervour. Local farmers markets, fresh produce and harvest festivals offer a great opportunity to the people to stock up on nature’s fresh produce, before the long winter comes in. I have seen Canadians celebrate strawberry season and later, apple season, by going ‘strawberry picking’ or ‘apple picking’ to the farms in droves. These are nothing short of annual family traditions and we were lucky to join our neighbour family in their seasonal apple-picking excursion this year.
It is now time for Thanksgiving. In every part of the country, families are planning to get together; duck and turkey and apple pies are being prepared. The leaves are changing colour. Canadians will go out on long walks and drives to enjoy the plethora of hues Fall has brought with it.
Pumpkins have started lining up outside people’s houses more than a month before Halloween. Children are asking each other what costume they’re going to be wearing. Our toddler will go out “Trick or Treating” with his Canadian friends. We have stocked up on candies for the children who will stop by our house.
And then of course, there is Christmas round the corner. I know without a doubt that I am going to experience Christmas like never before and I am excited. I am also looking forward to the winter. Yes, it is going to be colder than I could have ever imagined, but Canadians make winter a celebration too. It is a time of skiing and tobogganing, of snow suits and snow men, of beautiful wintry white mornings and snow shoveling.
But in the midst of all of this, I have not forgotten our Indian festivals either. Somewhere in the middle of Halloween and Christmas, we will celebrate Diwali. I would love to see our Canadian neighbours’ faces when they see our sole house lit up with little candles in November, long before they would start putting up lights for Christmas. I am also looking forward to Karva Chauth and fasting in a country where the moon will appear by 6pm! Isn’t that a relief?
Maybe, we will carry some Indian sweets to our neighbours here and share our festival with them. Maybe while Canada seeps in on us, we will let a little bit of India come forth in Canada. Maybe we will get together with some fellow Indians and bring our own festivals to life. What matters, in the end, is to celebrate them all- the Holis and the Halloweens, the Diwalis and the Eid.
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Piyushi Dhir is the author of 'In Search of Love', 'I'm Yours, The Next Time', 'Silent Promises' and 'Enmeshed Evermore'. She is a contributor in 'Nineteen Tales of COVID-19', a collection of short stories. A voracious reader, a keen traveler, a businesswoman and a mom, Piyushi currently resides in Canada. A nomad at heart, she loves to discover new places and capture the hues of life with her pen.