We arrived in Kathmandu 2 days before the main day of the celebration so we dived straight into the flurry of Dashain-related activities. Every time family and friends asked how I was doing, my only answer was busy. Everyone was always doing something – cooking in the kitchen, attending to visiting relatives, going out to visit others, and praying. There was lots of praying and chanting, in the altar outside the house, in the kitchen, inside the bedroom, even in the shower.
When I asked Scott about his Dashain experience, he said as a child it meant getting to wear new clothes and receiving money. But now it’s about meeting people and catching up with them, and receiving blessings from elders.
As a newbie, I know only the gist of what the celebration is about, in terms of which god is being celebrated and for what reason. And coming from a different religious background, I have no spiritual experience around it. But as a cultural experience, there are two things that I like the most about Dashain.
First, the sense of community. It is celebrated among a much larger family unit, where you visit even your father’s cousin’s wife, etc. I also met grandma’s sisters, and their husbands and children. As a new member of the family, it was a good opportunity for me to meet more members of the clan.
Second, the giving and the receiving of blessings. Even during Christmas and birthdays, our greetings are limited to Merry Christmas, Happy Birthday, and the all-encompassing God bless you. Anything more detailed than that goes on the occasional short note that accompanies a gift. I love the blessings part in Dashain because words of affirmation, more than material gifts, is my love language. They’re valuable to me, and in Dashain, and in the general practice of giving and receiving tikka, the ritual is central to the celebration.
All in all, it was a beautiful, meaningful experience. I didn’t like all the walking involved in visiting people’s houses, but that’s just a small price to pay.
A belated Dashain greeting to everyone who celebrated it.
How about you? Do you celebrate Dashain? What does it mean to you and what part of it do you like the most?