by Kirat Kaur
As the weather continues to cool, the arrival of several Sikh holidays will soon be upon us. But unlike years past, due to we won’t be able to visit a Gurdwara or join a Nagar Kirtan to commemorate Bandi Chhor Divas or Guru Nanak’s Prakash Utsav (birthday). Instead we are in our homes doing our part to help slow the spread of Covid-19. This new reality has upended every aspect of our lives and holiday celebrations are no different. But instead of waiting till next year to resume our celebrations, we can all find ways to celebrate at home.
I’ve always been a bit of a craft geek. I love making decorations and artwork for our home and finding new ways to be creative. A few years ago when I realized my kids knew more about Easter and Christmas than our own holidays I set about creating a series of Sikh holiday craft activities for them. They loved doing them and looked forward to little changes I made each year. This past April when the lockdown had started, I shared a Vaisakhi activity with my sister so she could celebrate at home with her kids. Not only did her kids love the activity, they learned about the Panj Pyare and the virtues that Guru Sahib endowed in the Khalsa. Over the summer, when it became apparent that the lockdown restrictions would likely last well into next year, my husband and I talked about how we can share our holiday craft ideas with other families so they can celebrate with their kids. At first we thought about creating a self-published eBook. But after talking it over with my cousin Jasdeep Singh, we were convinced that a website with directions and guidance was the only way to make it easily accessible to all. My husband and I settled on sharing the five activities my kids loved the most. We wrote out the directions for each and consulted family to make sure we got the themes and stories right. We began building the website, Celebrate Sikhi, in July and finished in late September.
The first Sikh holiday coming up that I posted an activity for is Bandi Chhor Divas, which falls on November 14th this year during the festival of Diwali. Bandi Chhor Divas celebrates the historic day when Guru Hargobind Sahib was released from an unjust imprisonment and returned to the Akal Takht at Amritsar. For Sikhs, this historical event represents a fulfillment of the eternal story of good triumphing over evil and the reinstatement of order from disorder. I named the activity “Tassels of Freedom” because it uses the story of Bandi Chhor Divas to create a craft decoration that teaches children about the virtue of selflessness and connects it to their own lives. Below are the directions for the activity.
· At least 1 yard of tassel trim for each child
· 5 inches of yarn or string for each child
· 1 sheet of white Cardstock Paper or a decorative card for each child
· A few dozen round tags for each child
· Hole Puncher
· Pens and Pencils
· Sparkler for each child
1. Storytime – Start by sharing a simple story with your children about the triumph of good over evil and using Guru Hargobind Sahib’s decision not to leave prison without other innocent prisoners as an example. On our website, we posted a simple version of the story which you can print out and read to your children. The younger they are, the simpler the story should be. The key is to emphasize the importance of dharam (righteous living).
2. Using card stock or a decorative card, ask each child to create a name card by cutting out a 3″ x 5″ piece and have them write their name on it.
3. Ask each child to say the names of all their loved ones (immediate family, cousins, friends, etc) and write them down.
4. Tally up the number of loved ones for each child and give each child a stack of round tags equal to the number of loved ones they named.
5. Have them write the name of each loved one they mentioned on a round tag.
6. Cut a length of tassel trim for each child that has enough tassels to equal the number of loved ones you counted in step 4. Pull a little extra and cut a few tassels off on each side because you will need the extra line to tie it to something.
7. Give each child the piece of tassel trim you cut for them.
8. Have your child tie each round tag to a tassel on their piece of tassel trim.
9. Tie the extra portion of each child’s tassel trim to the hole on one side of the name/picture card they created in step 2.
10. Tie a small piece of yarn or string to the hole on the other side of the name card. This can be used to hang the decoration somewhere in your home
11. You can hang it up on your child’s bedroom doorway or your fireplace mantle for 12 days, each day representing a year that Guru Hargobind Sahib was imprisoned. Emphasize that this is only a decoration, our Guru would want them to practice real selflessness in their daily lives.
12. In the evening after nightfall, give each child a sparkler and light it. Tell them that we celebrate Diwali to remind ourselves that whether in stories or in real life, good always overcomes evil. Just like a small sparkler can light up the backyard, a small act of righteousness can shine brightly in a world of darkness.
If you don’t think your kids will enjoy the activity, you can always add your own twist. There’s no rules, just be creative and try to impart a lesson. As long as your children are having fun and learning something, you did it right. Once the lockdown is over and we are able to return to life as we knew it, hopefully your children will have fond memories of these holiday activities and create new family traditions that get passed down to the next generation. For photos and more information about other Sikh holiday activities, please visit our website at www.celebratesikhi.com.