28 Oct Celebrating Kartik with children
Can you believe that Kartik is already around a corner?! It is the most beautiful part of a year, with so much potential to engage children in devotional activities through storytelling, music, drama, art, cooking, and practical work. The whole month has the mood of ongoing celebration, moving from one festival to another. It could be overwhelming with more service than usual, but the result of spiritual benefit is worth it.
This year we have neatly lined up festivals each Sunday. On Sunday 1. November – the month of Kartik begins. Next Sunday is Bahulashtami – the appearance day of Radha Kunda. Next, we celebrate Govardhana puja and Dipavali, after is Gopashtami, and the last Sunday of November is the end of Kartik with Rasa Purnima festival on the following day. These are the festivals that we usually celebrate in our home during this special month, besides Damodarashataka prayers and offering ghee lamps every evening.
There are two essential steps for celebrating any of these festivals with children at home. The first is telling the story. The second is doing one or two activities in connection with the story. For young children, taking up one activity is quite enough. With older children, we can make a more elaborate program with more activities, according to the child`s nature.
With young children, I prefer to choose a dramatic activity like a puppet show or drama act. I do not mean a dramatic presentation to some audience, but acting a story interactively with the children. Young children very much love to act out the story as a natural part of their play. We can assist them with the gentle guiding hand, playing some of the roles along with them. We should not be surprised if the children ages 2-5 want to repeat the same play again and again – repetition is their need in this stage of development. When my daughter was just a baby, a devotee was telling me how he was playing Damodar-lila with his daughter ten times in a row! She wanted to pay it again and again and again. Some years later, I found myself in the same scene, with my daughter and son playing how mother Yashoda tie little Krishna ten (or more!) times in a row. Damodar- lila is especially attractive to children of this age. Krishna is the same age in this pastime, and the story reveals the sweetness of motherly affection in relation to the children’s mischief, which is so much relevant to the children of this age group. These are the sweetest memories that we can have as mothers, and we should take advantage of it as a great opportunity to pass on to children Krishna consciousness in a most natural way… because not much time will pass, and our children will no longer be so excited to play this way.
With older, school-age, children, we can do practical services together, like cooking, making ghee lamps and garlands. We can do different art or craft projects to decorate an altar or house for the festivals. If we attend a temple, most probably the focus of the celebration is going to be temple worship and kirtan. But if we have no access to the temple, it is our task to make a festive atmosphere at our home. Actually, each home where devotees live and serve the Lord is considered to be a temple. It is up to us, as the leaders of our home, to set up the mood and standards for worship and service of the Lord, which does not need, and, of course, can not be the same as in the temple. When we have children, the arrangements have to be adjusted to their needs as well. It is quite possible that children would be more engaged in the home setting than in the temple unless there are special temple programs for children.
The whole month of November I am going to share a variety of resources that you can use to celebrate Kartik with your children. If you want to be sure to get ALL of these resources, including stories for all the major festivals, ideas for dramatic, artistic, and practical activities in connection to the stories, please subscribe to my newsletter and you will not miss any of them!
We have a blissfully busy time in front of us and all good reasons to be excited! I hope we can share some of the bliss and help each other to make this Kartik a wonderful devotional experience for our children.