Settling in after festive fun

Post-travel blues are something I’ve been familiar with over the years, but it’s even worse if the traveling involved meeting family that I don’t get to see everyday. This past month, I was away in Nepal visiting my family and celebrating two of the biggest festivals that fall during autumn: Dashain and Tihar. I had such a fantastic time that coming back to cold and rainy Poland and going to work have been really difficult.

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Blooming marigolds signify festive season in Nepal

I was elated to be back in Nepal in time for the festivals after seven long years. I’ve visited several times during the seven years, but somehow it was always during summers when monsoon rainfalls cripple the country. I guess I didn’t really care for the festivals but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that holidays are the best ways to strengthen family bond while also having a jolly time. My family was understandably even happier to have me back home in time for celebrations.

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Kite flying is popular during Dashain. A tradition that started with the belief that the gods wouldn’t send down anymore rain

Dashain, the biggest festival in Nepal, is celebrated during autumn and started as a after-harvest party in traditionally agricultural Nepal. This was a time when people could finally relax after months of toiling in the fields in the farming season. The weather in autumn is often the best in the year, with the monsoon rainfalls finally making way for clear blue skies and warm weather. There are of course religious elements to Dashain as well. In Hindu mythology, Goddess Durga was said to be victorious upon Demon Mahishashur after a battle that lasted for days, and Dashain marks a 10-day celebration of victory over evil as a result.

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Preparations for Dashain tika

Culturally, Dashain is when people fly kites in the blue sky, lots of delicacies (especially meat items) are cooked at family get-togethers, tall bamboo swings are set up on the streets and most importantly, when elders put tika (red powder mixed with raw rice grains) on the forehead of younger family members as they pass on their blessings for good health and success while doing so.

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Festive bamboo swing in Kathmandu

Schools and workplaces are closed for the duration, and the traffic chaos in Kathmandu is at last much more tolerable. I had missed the atmosphere during all those years.

A fortnight after Dashain begins the second most important festival in Nepali calendar, Tihar. Tihar is a five-day festival with each day dedicated to a separate cause. The first day is when people remember crows, also believed to be messengers of god in Nepali culture, by giving them food in their terraces and rooftops.

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Orange is the major color of Tihar

The second day is for dogs when people decorate them with tika and flower garlands and offer them food as a way of thanking them for guarding humans. The third morning is for cows, also a holy animal and believed to be a form of goddess, and the same evening is Laxmi puja. Laxmi is the goddess of wealth, luck and prosperity in Hinduism. In the evening, people make a colorful rangoli (floor art that uses colorful patterns) at the entrance of their homes and paint foot steps originating from the rangoli all the way until the worship room or spot of the home, symbolizing LaxmiΒ  entering the household and bringing luck.

There’s a tradition of groups of people going door to door as they sing folk songs and dance and the hosts present them with festive delicacies and cash. It is believed that these groups bring luck by singing and dancing on the eve of Laxmi Puja. Houses are lit up with traditional butter lamps and electric lights, and firecrackers are used. The fourth morning is for remembering and honoring oxen, significant animals in a country where subsistence farming is the bread and butter for many. The evening looks exactly like the one before, with the lights, festive singing and dancing and firecrackers.

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People decorate their entire houses with colorful LED lights like these

The last day of Tihar is a major holiday in Nepal. It’s called Bhai Tika,Β and it’s when sisters and brothers exchange a long multicolored tika on the forehead, best wishes and gifts, accompanied by many Hindu rituals. Sisters typically invite brothers to their homes and prepare delicacies for them. It’s a day that is for appreciating the relationship between brothers and sisters and strenghthening their bond.

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Bhai Tika ceremony

Festivals in Nepal like everywhere are a family and social time. Add perfect weather to that and the festive atmosphere on the streets was something that I had been nostalgic for over the years. But once I was there, I noticed that it just wasn’t the same.. there were very few kites on the Kathmandu sky, only few children who went door-to-door singing and dancing, fewer bamboo swings in Kathmandu neighborhoods and only few complete families due to massive number of Nepali people living and working abroad.

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I also visited a few places in Nepal which I will be blogging about soon. Other than missing my Nepali family, I’m also glad to be back with my Polish family and to enjoy orderliness on the streets, peacefulness and proper infrastructures. It helps that Christmas is around the corner. Home is two countries for me after all πŸ™‚

 


41 thoughts on “Settling in after festive fun

  1. Glad to know so much in detail about Dashain festival in Nepal. I was in Sikkim during that period and observed lot of Nepalis with big red tikas celebrating Dashain in festive spirits. And nice to see your celebration pictures.Hope you had good time πŸ™‚

  2. A thoroughly nice blog, Pooja. I’m seriously missing being there. This morning Rasmi sent me a video of my dog going out for a walk and her funny antics when we get the lead ready. I really wished that I was there in Kathmandu. Pooja, Goma’s passport has been despatched from Delhi so she will know the result in a couple of days and insha’h Allah she will be here a few days later. I can well imagine you appreciating the calm and orderliness of Europe after being in Nepal. I know that feeling exactly. Here we are having Arctic like weather with the temperature struggling to reach 19c this afternoon. How is it there ?

    1. We had the year’s first snow today. I think I’ve gotten used to the bitter winters by this point so I am actually looking forward to the Christmas markets, snowboarding and just winter in general. Kathmandu was already chilly when I flew back last week.. with the night time temperatures dropping below 10. Very hard without central heating in homes.

      1. Oh it’s already so cold up there. I am well wrapped up here but it’s 15c which is nothing for you guys. I will switch on the sitting room heater in a few minutes. No central heating here in Portugal so winters do feel horribly cold Anyway I prefer this to the discomfort of summer. Pooja, when will you go to Kathmandu next time?

        I’m waiting to hear from Goma. I hope it will be today or tomorrow.

  3. First of all, how on earth people get on that swing? It looks pretty high above the ground. I echo your sentiment about a growing appreciation toward our culture as we get older (and hopefully wiser?). I’d heard about Dashain before, but this post gives me a better picture of its cultural significance as well as the traditions that go along the festival. Looking forward to reading more posts about Nepal, one of my favorite countries on the planet!

    1. Hi Bama. The seat of the swing is actually not that high from the ground at all. πŸ™‚ The timing of the photo makes it look like it’s pretty high hehe. I agree, the older I get the more I appreciate the culture and traditions I was raised in. I am going to catch up with your Bhutan posts! I’ve missed reading them on my vacation.
      Glad to know you enjoyed my post about Nepal and the festivals!

      1. Ahh I see. That makes more sense — exactly how illusions work. πŸ™‚ Don’t worry about catching up with my Bhutan posts. The next one will only be published in early December.

  4. You are very blessed to have two countries as home Pooja. Though I can understand the sadness when leaving Nepal. How lovely to have celebrated those festivals with your family, I especially like the holiday celebrations and meanings of Bhai Tika, with siblings. Just beautiful. Xx

    1. Thank you so much, Lorelle. Bhai Tika is really special and I’ve come to appreciate it a lot as I grow older. So lucky that I’ve just come back from festive celebrations in Nepal and Christmas is just around the corner here! πŸ˜€

  5. I feel you with missing the festivals and rituals of home… I haven’t been home for Thanksgiving or Christmas in 3 years and I miss it! (Even though I’m not Christian, my dad’s family still celebrates.) That’s the rub for living abroad.

  6. Those led decorated houses look magical, I can just imagine being behind that curtain of lights, on one of the balconies, and looking out… like a movie scene. Maybe a good place for a first kiss? πŸ˜‰ Also love all the colors you’re wearing!!
    How different your two worlds are, Pooja!

    1. Thank you, Snow! All those houses are really decorated beautifully. The one on the photo is of the government office responsible for distributing electricity throughout the country, so they had really cool decoration + some animated lights too. I love all the colors too! I really appreciate all the everyday colors when I am in Nepal. It makes things so interesting πŸ™‚

  7. Looks like both these festivals are very similar to Durg Puja and Diwali. Happy to read about them in details, Pooja! Looking forward to more about your trip back home.

    1. Hi Arv! Glad to know that you enjoyed the post πŸ™‚ Is Durga Puja a major celebration in India? Probably Diwali is more significant? I am sure we have some important variations between how they’re celebrated regardless.

      1. Pooja, Durga Puja is very important festival in West Bengal and in Assam. In a lot of other areas since Mata Ji or Shakti as another force in hinduism is widely worshipped in most North India, Durga Mata is just one of many “Roop” or version of Mata Ji, hence it is an important festival for Hindus. Diwali is the most important festival in India except for states in South and East India. If you want to read about Diwali, can I lead you to how this is celebrated in Jaipur via a photo-blog?

  8. So much color and life in your photos! I can only imagine how it feels to come back to rain and cold, brrr. And seven years is a very long period. If it were me, I would start idealizing just almost everything after such a gap :))
    Hope, you will find your balance whenever you are. It is hard living away from your family, and you are strong and courageous in doing so.

    1. Hi Marina. Yes I can’t believe that I ignored the festivals for seven years! I think I will try to go back every year now for the festivals.
      Thank you so much for your kind words! It is indeed very hard living away from family and seeing them in months and sometimes years.

      1. It is hard for anyone but even more for people who come from the societies with strong family bonds. Nepal seems like one. And when there are so many colors – living in gray winters must be harsh too.

  9. I am glad your were able to spend some time in your other home country, Pooja. We always have one foot in each home, don’t we?! Sometimes I get sad when I see that the reality does not match my memories, but that’s because life moves on, and nothing ever stays the same. Or we change, and with us, our perception.
    I hope you will enjoy the holiday season in Poland.
    All the best,
    Tanja

  10. It made me smile when you said you happy to enjoy orderliness on the streets, peacefulness and proper infrastructures! A good way to see the positive aspect of things. I remember when I came back from my travel to India/Nepal, I found the Parisian metro was so quiet!
    I hope you’ll embrace the Christmas season jolliness now that you’re back to Europe.

    1. Yes! And Paris metro is not at all quiet by European standards, but compared to India/Nepal crazy public transports, it’s worlds away hehe. I love the Christmas season here! Have already put the lights up at home, visited the local Christmas market and now excited for some presents shopping πŸ™‚ Reminds me of how I visited the huge and beautiful Christmas market in Paris years ago. Oh I just loved it. Roasted chestnuts and hot wine and such a festive atmosphere. Do you live in Paris?
      Hope you’re enjoying this festive time of the year too!

      1. No I grew up near Paris but my family home there was sold when I was 30. I’m hoping I’ll go back in a few years.
        If you like Christmas markets, you HAVE to go to Alsace. I don’t know where in poland you are but it might not too far away from you (North East of France) – πŸ’© Just hearing there has been a shooting yesterday night in Strasbourg, so not the best tip I am giving you here πŸ’©
        As for feeling festive… I have a dysfunctional family and suffer from the Hollywood syndrome every year when I realized my christmases are far far from what they should be. I am trying to make it as festive as possible for my daughter but if it was just me, I’d skip it.

  11. I have missed reading your posts, Pooja. So it was wonderful hearing all about the festivals. It does seem to be more common for Nepalese to work abroad. My daughter works with a few Nepali girls in my town. Despite families being split over the corners of the globe, this festival seems to offer that warming sense of community and a positive spirit for those who participate in the door to door singing. No wonder you miss that! The brother sister relationship is not always the same when we grow up, yet there is a fun way to keep the connections strong!! Is that you and your sister? Gorgeous girls in beautiful dress!

    1. There are soooo many Nepalese in Australia, Amanda! Not so many in Poland. But from what I know, it’s crazy in Australia. Sadly, Nepalese people are number one export of Nepal. I personally didn’t like living there due to political chaos, crazy inflation, restrictive culture especially for women and lack of opportunities. It’s sad to see family just once or twice a year but that’s the price I pay for living a good quality of life in Poland.. That’s my younger sister, yes! We sisters exchanged colorful tika and gifts too, as I personally like to celebrate it as a sibling festival rather than strict brother-sister day. Thanks for your lovely comment, Amanda!

      1. I can totally understand your reasons for living abroad, Pooja. You have so many more opportunities in Europe, (and unique places to travel to); is that one of the reasons Australia is popular for Nepalese workers?

      2. Australia is definitely one of the top destinations for Nepalese students because of easy visa regulations and a prospect of good future and high earning potential, Amanda. Although I’ve always been good at English, I chose to go to Europe (where I struggled with the local languages..) mostly because of the opportunities for travels and incredible diversity in such a compact area. I’ve never actually been to an English speaking country and wonder how nice it’d be to actually understand each and everything that’s going on around me! I speak Polish quite well but I still need help with government work, and I can’t read books/newspapers.. All this to say that I think use of English is definitely what makes Australia attractive for many immigrants.

      3. Ah that makes sense now. And it is so good to hear that Australia is still considered a good destination, despite the bad publicity we have received about immigration and refugees. I agree Europe would be an excellent destination for you and you, and look at all the travel opportunities! You are indeed lucky to be in Europe! I guess each places has its advantages and disadvantages! Life is always full of possiblities!

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