Festive minimalists

11:46 AM

The festive season in India kicks in with Ganesh Chaturthi in September and pretty much comes to an end right after New Year with the harvest festival known as Pongal in South India and by other names in other areas of the country. In between you have Navratri, Durga Puja, Diwali, Christmas and other festivals in all faith. needless to say that year after years the commercial aspect of said holidays is more and more exploited, encouraging people to buy more, and bigger every year. From a new saree to a new TV or a microwave it seems shops want us to believe spending our hard earned cash is the auspicious thing to do.

Now DH and I are fairly minimalist when it comes to holiday, we don’t really buy more stuff than usual then, we exchange gifts for Christmas, do crackers for Diwali, and chill at home on New Year. And that is about it. DH is not super religious and in his family it’s really Diwali that is celebrated, no other of the festivals, so nope we don’t do Ganesh Chaturthi, and we don’t do anything special whatsoever for Navratri either, no puja, no party, no dandiya party going (we aren’t really party animals both of us being fairly introvert). I don’t do Karwa Chauth either which is the next one coming according to all the promotional text messages I receive on my mobile phone these days.
For Diwali, we keep it very simple, sure we decorate the balconies with lights and put diyas around the home, on our terrace in Bangalore we even used to make a rangoli, and yes we do firecrackers, though never more than 3-4 boxes of mainly silent flower pots and “chakra” and a box of sparkler that we never finish and have to throw out the next year because they no longer work. For many Diwali we spent home we even went out for dinner, and we don’t even really care about the tradition of keeping it vegetarian, there have been many chicken dish on our table over the years…that’s how religious DH is.
We went celebrating it in Lucknow twice since we were married, and while it’s more tradition and ritual heavy, it’s still kept simple as his parents aren’t for big displays and feast which I appreciate.
In the past we’ve been on the lookout for deals offered during that time when a big purchase such as a laptop or a washing machine came, but that was because we needed the item, not for the sake of buying something new just because every media makes you feel like you have to splurge, half the time we don’t even buy new clothes, if that tell you how minimalist we are on the material aspect.
As for Christmas, well I do a Christmas tree, the tradition is deep rooted in my family, there is something fun decorating the tree with your kids, and I want Ishita to grow up with that spirit. We exchange gifts, because there is something fun in just surprising your loved ones with something gift wrapped, but while I have friends back home that buy several presents for their kids we pretty much keep it down to one or two max, because that’s not the quantity that matters, but the thought. Last year my Grand ma sent some money our way and I bought a gift on her behalf for Ishi, and then there was ours, that was it, I used some of the Grand ma money to treat DH to a remote controlled car because he has been asking for ages when Ishita will be old enough to play with one (while I knew all along he was the one really wanting one but needed an excuse), he couldn’t get enough of it, he was so exited seeing the gift wrapped box in the living room for over a week that he just kept asking like a kid when he could open it (he made it to the 24th could not wait any longer). And DH surprised me with a gift set from the Body Shop in my favourite scent: spiced Vanilla.

What we aren’t minimalist about when it comes to the few holidays we do celebrate is the spirit, in Bangalore where we have lots of friend, they were invited at our place for a chill, no frill, relaxing happy time with good food, and discussion. Here in Mumbai we are pretty much alone, but that doesn’t stop us from putting emphasis on what matters: togetherness. In the end it’s not how many lights you have in your home, how fancy your decorations are, or the high price tag on your outfit, or even what bargain your stroke in store that matters. It’s how much value you put on sharing the festive spirit with those that matter to you.
Years later I still remember December 25th 2004, I was alone in Chennai because DH could not afford to come back by train for both Christmas and New Year’s eve. The house in which I was staying had a garden shed built for the landlady’s driver’s family, his wife could not bear the idea that I was alone for Christmas and dragged me to the garden where she and her husband were having family members over and she just told me to come celebrate with them, the meal was simple, the spirit was high. Probably one of the warmest, best Christmas of my entire life.

This year we are staying home for Diwali, and we have no particular plans made yet and that is actually a very appealing idea to us.


  1. Hélène5:31 PM

    How wise you are your husband and you. I was wondering what kind of tree are you using for christmas ? Hope you get to know more people in Mumbai.

  2. I bought a synthetic tree in a store in Bangalore in 2008, but this year I think we will have to buy a new one, the one we have has a broken foot from the shift from Bangalore to Navi Mumbai in 2010, and last Christmas it threatened to crash a couple of time under the assault of my daughter, plus it seems the Mumbai monsoons made it rust, so I have no idea how it looks now, but last year some of the branches where threatening to snap. Since Ishita is after the tree now I might as well get a new safer looking one. Many shops sell some nice looking one noawadays, not like when I first arrived to India and the onl trees were 2-3 feet tall and neon green/pink/yellow and full of glitter.

    I have a small circle of friend in our complex, DH spends too much time in office to socialise, that must be the first time since I am in India that we are facing this scenario LOL

  3. Oh holidays, festivals & celebrations!

    Here in Nepal it is non stop holidays & festivals from October to mid January. Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Muslim, & local tribal festivals are all celebrated. Purnima, Indra Jatra, Dashain, Eid Ul Adha, Christmas, you name Nepalis celebrate it.
    What makes it difficult is that Oct & November are the prime tourist season in Nepal also. None the less, the entire Nepali gov't. shuts down for 7 days during Dashain, banks & local businesses also. the entire country pretty much comes to a halt, often leaving foreign tourists stranded & those working in the tourist industry at a loss. Before the Maoists took over the gov't, & businesses would shut down for 15 to 30 days during October.

    I'm already holiday-ed out & I'm afraid my festive mood is on the decline. Tomorrow my son's school decided they wanted me to host a Halloween party. Oh well, Trick or Treat!!!

  4. Hélène8:45 PM

    It's good that you have friends close-by !

  5. Hélène8:49 PM

    It's a pity you don't have a blog Bibi, I'd love to hear more about you.

  6. Oh dear I would be going crazy if everything was closed or 7 days straight! I didn't have the holiday-ed out feeling in Bangalore, but here in Mumbai even though we don't celebrate anything but diwali and Christmas the noise and the crowd from all the other festivals happening is still tiring me.


Blog Archive