Last week the older group of children had a visit from one of our parents, Sowmya. Sowmya is Sita's mom. Sowmya came to tell us about a Festival they celebrate in the region of India were she and her family are from, Tamil Nadu. The name of the festival is Pongal festival: or harvest festival. Sowmya told us about how this is a time when people thank the sun for a successful harvest. The children saw and touched some crops typical in India that are harvested during this time. Sowmya brought with her some turmeric, tamarind, rice and raw sugar. Some children announced they knew what turmeric was, some had never heard of tamarind. Some were surprised to learn how sugar came from Sugar cane and how it was harvested by squeezing the juice out of the cane. They were also surprised to see sugar in a block:
Z: It smells sweet
K: It smells like maple syrup.
We imitated the growth cycle of these plant foods as Sowmya asked the children to lay down and become seeds, then with water and care and the sun, they grew until we got these beautiful "plants": :)
We learned how festivals are very popular in India and how there are many festivals throughout the year. How some festivals like Pongal last 4 days or more. Pongal happens every year from January 14th to January 17th. During those 4 days of the duration of the festival, people do different activities each day.
We also heard how people decorate their homes with beautiful "Kolam" designs. Typically they make intricate beautiful paintings on the ground outside their doors. Usually these designs include sugar cane sticks, as seen in this precious one Sowmya made for us.
Another friend who wasn't with us during this activity came into the nest later and was pleasantly surprised by it and said: "Wow, that is beautiful, who made that?"
The word Pongal means "overflowing". And on the second day of the festival, people boil a pot of milk to share and celebrate the bounty of the harvest. The pots they boiled the milk in, we learned, are also beautifully decorated. The children got a chance to recreate the experience of decorating the pot with construction paper. They loved the wonderful assortment of little things that Sowmya kindly brought for them to use. You can see some of the intricate patters children designed.
We are really grateful to Sowmya and Sita for sharing some of their experiences with us and the children. Since Sita joined us, the children have been curious about her and her heritage and Sita has been happy to answer and share her culture with us. Tell us if you do, how do you share other people's experiences and cultures with your children?