Growing up in India, I didn’t celebrate many festivals. Sounds odd, but my family was not much into festivals and rituals. When I was in college, we’d celebrate festivals like Holi and Diwali with friends, but not the puja and rituals.
When I came to Milwaukee in 1970, there was a bigger gaping hole in celebrating festivals as there were very few Indians. Even though we had not celebrated many festivals in India, but I had family and friends so it didn’t matter as much. But now I felt a big void. There was no community and no one to celebrate with. India cultural society did organize Diwali. So there was some community but it didn’t feel the same as India. However, slowly more Indians came and there were many more celebrations. I learnt different rituals. We made our own traditions and formed our own community.
Now I have been here for over 40 years and there are many Indians. We have a Hindu temple. We have a lot of festival celebrations with rituals and all. I celebrate Lohri, Makarsankranti, shivratri, Rama navami and so many more. The sense of community is very strong and we have finally made our life here.
One of the delightful part of the festivals is social media. I am on Facebook and have a whatsapp group. I get greetings for so many festivals. While I realize that it is not personal, but it does create a nice atmosphere of joy. Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day etc are all over, but social media creates a virtual world of Indian festivals. For Lohri, there will be videos showing dancing around the bonfire, for sankranti different people will send greetings with traditional sweets. And, the nice part is that I get messages from people from different cultures in India. Lohri from Punjabis, Makarsankranti from maharastrians, uttarayan from Gujratis, Pongal from South Indian. We Indians in America are celebrating this occasion together. Most Indians live far apart, so there isn’t the camaraderie of neighborhood celebrations or celebrations in the local community. Social media has become the community that I didn’t have.I missed this in my childhood and now I get it through social media.