11 Aug Janmashtami at home with kids
Tomorrow we celebrate Janmashtami, the appearance day of Lord Sri Krishna. The appearance of God on the earthly plane is the most auspicious moment for mankind because whenever He appears He brings with Him the knowledge, wisdom, justice, love, prosperity, and light to illuminate the darkness of this material world. The same goes for the appearance of His representatives. By celebrating this beautiful festival we have been reminded of our position as a tiny part of God, who always depends on His mercy. As the demigods asked the help of the Lord in the time of difficulty, and He promised them to come, we should be reminded to take the shelter of the Lord in these turbulent times when the whole world has been facing uncertainty at all levels. Janmashtami festival is here to assure us that the Lord is always ready to come to help mankind, in one way or another, reciprocating to the prayers of His devotees.
Traditionally, Janmashtami is widely celebrated in temples all over India and the world. But we can also celebrate it simply and festively at home with our children, family, and friends. Each festival is an opportunity to engage children in the service and meaningful work like cooking, cleaning, and decorating. In our home festivals usually means cooking special preparations together. When the kids were younger my husband bought a small picnic stove for them, and children cook subjis in small pans on that stove. Hopefully, soon they are going to take their place behind the big stove as well… but for now, they are ok to be recognized as „small subjis“ creators.
At our home, we do not have Radha-Krishna Deity, but we have small figures of Radha-Krishna and Gopal from India. I am not sure what material these figures are made from, it is some kind of artificial clay, and it is fine to make them wet. So, for Janmashtami, we make the kid’s altar with these figures, and we simply bath them with water. The children are fully in charge of this abhishek because these are not real deities and we follow the most simple rules to perform it.
The decoration for the festival is another great opportunity to engage children in the service and to get them to practice some hand working skills. My kids are not much into crafting, so we usually make only one simple decoration project together. Something like cutting the flags from paper and write Krishna’s name on them, each flag one letter, or just draw and color some design on them. With the older kids, you can make fabric flags that children can chop by hand or make some embroidery on them.
Lord Krishna appeared in the midnight, and the following day, after Janmashtami, His father Nanda Maharaja held Krishna’s birthday celebration. We can organize a pretend-play of Krishna’s birthday with the children, playing how we go to the birthday party of little Krishna to bring Him a gift (we can take a doll or drawing of Krishna laying in the cradle for that purpose). My children like this kind of play very much, they like to choose and pack the gifts secretly and make a surprise to Krishna and me (who plays the role of mother Yashoda, of course). You can make this activity as simple as to make the imaginary gifts, coming back again and again with another gift, or to let children to pick up items around the room and pack them as a gift. Also you can do elaborate craft or art project as a gift: string some beads for the necklace, draw a postcard, make little cows or fruits out of clay or playdough, make paper flowers, sew a soft pillow filled with wool or cotton, make a special bag full of nuts and dry fruits… And of course, you can always make it a competition fun – which gift Krishna likes the most!
And, the festival is not complete without a story! The story of how Lord Krisha appeared in this world is found in canto 10 of Bhagavata Purana, and it is full of magical and unusual events that awake wonder and reverence in the hearts of children. Click The appearance of Lord Krishna to read the story.
One year we made the kid’s altar in the courtyard with the soft toys and the fresh fruits from our garden… Happy Janmashtami to all who celebrate!