The days are long but the years are short.
I’ve heard this so many times throughout my life and it seems with every passing year it feels more true.
As I was putting up our Ridvan board this year (a wooden display I made when my oldest son was a year old which you can see in this post) I realised that it was now 10 years old. Ten years! It feels incredible that 10 years have passed since I started really considering how to celebrate Holy Days in our newly created family.
Back then, there weren’t many ideas online about celebrating Baha’i Holy Days at home with children. There were a few lovely blogs here and there but no Facebook groups or websites listing ideas and resources. And, while I yearned for some creative inspiration to share these special days with my young children at home, there was no pressure to do anything, either.
In recent years there has been a flurry of amazing and exciting ideas which parents have shared about their at-home Holy Day celebrations. It’s been awesome to witness the crafts, dramas, homemade videos, dioramas, music, beautiful themed desserts, decorations, and all the creative ways children are engaging with the teachings and stories from our Faith, especially during the Holy Days.
While all these ideas are wonderful to have at our fingertips, it can also feel overwhelming for parents – mothers in particular – who are in a season of life where they are simply unable to add anything extra to their daily tasks. There are a myriad of circumstances which may play into this challenging position – morning sickness, a new baby, depression, health challenges for any member of the family, financial strain, forced isolation due to a pandemic, the list goes on and on. A parent may think that their child would love to make that cute Ridvan craft they saw on Facebook but when it comes time to try it, life gets in the way and it just doesn’t happen.
I’ve been there. Many times. It’s not fun planning to do something and share something with your children, but – for whatever reason – it doesn’t go as expected. Guilt sets in and you wonder why you can’t do it if other parents can.
I’m not giving excuses for doing our best and overcoming challenges, not at all. I’m just reiterating that motherhood is hard and it’s okay if you’re not doing as much as “everyone else” (which is not true anyway but it’s easy to feel this way). Besides the fact that you don’t know what happened behind that photo shoot, or what effort went into making something turn out picture perfect, we are all in different seasons of motherhood. I truly believe that the number of activities or the pomp in which you celebrate the Holy Days is not important. Of course if you have time and resources and energy and support to create beautiful activities and celebrations, by all means do so – how wonderful! But I just want to share that you don’t have to do that to make a Holy Day magical for your children, or yourself.
Don’t be afraid to celebrate simply if you are called in this season of life to do so. It isn’t in any way “less” to share a simple story while you cuddle on the couch. To listen to a song on YouTube that brings back your own childhood memories. To go outside and pick some wildflowers to serve as decorations. To eat packaged cookies which were found hidden in the back of the pantry as your family’s Holy Day treat. Or to draw a picture about how you feel, instead of make an elaborate craft.
Both kinds of celebrations – the simple and the not-so-simple – are lovely and wonderful. Each sort of celebration can offer heartfelt experiences for children, if they are done with love and sincerity. I’m actually guessing kids will learn more and feel the spirit more from our own attitudes and our own connection with the Holy Day, more than the specific activities we plan or do.
One of the beautiful things about our Faith is that there are no traditions. Each family, each community, each culture, each generation can try new ways and seek out new truths regarding what it means to truly celebrate these wonderful days with our children. You don’t have to do it like your neighbor or get anything Pinterest perfect.
And you can always celebrate differently next year if there was something you had in mind to do, which you didn’t get a chance to.
If you are a collector of photographs like me, it can be really lovely and heartwarming to go back and look at your Holy Day celebrations throughout the years. What did you children learn? What will they remember? What did you learn? What do you remember?
And what might you like to try next time?
As an example, here is a snapshot from my family’s Ridvan celebrations over the last 10 years… just one photo from each year… which doesn’t tell about the whole day or share the whole celebration by any means. But it’s these moments of joy that I hold onto, no matter how simple or elaborate they were, and I hope these stories will inspire you to appreciate the different ways we can celebrate Holy Days over the years… according to whatever season of motherhood you are in and whatever choices you make about how you’d like to celebrate Holy Days in your home.
Gluing printed roses onto a paper “tent.” I had only one child at this stage in my life and absolutely loved creating hands-on activities for him. At 18 months old, he didn’t care how simple or elaborate the activities were, but he loved getting to spend one-on-one time and listening to me telling the story about the roses piled high in Baha’u’llah tent.
I’ve never had a green thumb so asked my mother who was visiting from abroad if she could help my two year old create his first “garden” as a special activity since we were reading about the Ridvan garden. I had a one month old baby at the time and wouldn’t have attempted this if she wasn’t staying with us for a few weeks.
The herbs didn’t live beyond a few months after my mom left, but I was glad we had the shared experience of planting a garden in honor of the Festival of Ridvan.
This particular year I was determined to plan a child-friendly Ridvan program for our friends, as I felt most community programs were more focused on adults. You can read more about the program in this post. (Pictured above are our “rose cupcakes” which, as you can see, can only be called roses because of the color of the icing haha! I’m not a keen cook so this was what I was able to put together and my son obviously loved them regardless.)
With a one and three-year old, I prepared for this program little by little over the 12 days leading up to it. I also made sure my husband wasn’t rostered to work on the day of the program so I had his support, as well!
A quick craft activity to explain that Ridvan was the “King of Festivals.” Print nine pointed stars from Google images and glue onto cut-out crowns.
This hug was photographed between wrestling matches.
We were unexpectedly visiting cousins this year because a relative had fallen ill, and I honestly don’t even remember what we did for Ridvan — we had 6 kids under 5 years old in the house for a few weeks, so that’s not a surprise!! But I found this photo which meant at some point we cut out these shapes, got the kids to glue them together, and got them on the wall. Instant representation to help us all reflect on what was going on in the Ridvan garden all those years ago.
This was another year I have hardly any at-home celebration photos, probably because my third child was two months old! But putting her in a special outfit and attending our community program (since it was during the daytime) was what I could muster the energy for. I don’t remember the program itself (I was probably holding the baby in a carrier at the back of the room) but I do remember that my two sons had loved visiting and re-visiting the refreshments table. I also remember getting home from the program and being absolutely exhausted.
We were travelling in a camper van for this whole year, so for Holy Days we filled in one of the pages in the Baha’i Children’s Workbook by Sara Habibi (which I think may be out of print currently). We had no decorations or programs to attend the whole year, in fact. But I’m sure I decided to go out for a meal at a restaurant or to get a special treat at the bakery a few times as part of our simple celebrations!
Again, we were travelling, this time in Japan. A walk through the garden and seeking out new treats to try was a wonderful celebration. It was unlike we had ever had before (and not very Ridvan specific) but lovely just the same.
I was tasked with doing decorations for our community’s celebration at the Baha’i Centre so our family’s Holy Day craft was putting this window display together. The three year old loved putting the foam stickers on the grass I cut out and the older kids helped me glue the roses on the tent. I printed the banner from Delighted Hearts and laminated it to be used in future years.
As part of a program I was planning for our local community, I included teaching how to make homemade tissue paper roses (which we had learned during Ridvan in a previous year) along with a beautiful quote I found from Hasten Baha’i Women. That meant we didn’t do the craft at home but with many other people.
Now we come to the present year. My kids are currently 5, 9, and 11 years old… such a different reality from where I was 10 years ago, 5 years ago and even last year! We finally attempted putting together this beautiful printable paper Ridvan garden from Delighted Hearts (which I’d been meaning to do for a couple years since the first time I saw it), and our family goal was to write a tune to a quote about Ridvan which we finished in time to perform for an online Ridvan program.
As you can see, each of our celebrations for Ridvan over the last 10 years has been very different for the most part. Our family was in different circumstances each year. I was facing different personal situations. My children were at different stages of development. We were in different places, connected with different friends and communities. Sometimes we read the same stories and used the same decorations, but not every year.
Was one year “better” than the other?
Definitely not! Each had its own sweetness and its own challenges, and that’s part of the beauty.
My message to you in writing this post is please enjoy the season of motherhood you are in and find a way to make your Holy Days special, in whatever way you feel is right for you. No guilt or pressure needs to be part of the equation. Holy Day celebrations are not meant to weigh you down with extra expectations of yourself. Do what you feel will touch the heart of your children, and bring joy to yourself as well.
If you are in the stage where you can take on more, try to reach out to a mother who may not be in the same season of life. Take by some treats, send an inspiring quotation, drop off a storybook she can read from, or send a YouTube clip appropriate for her children’s ages. It doesn’t have to be something complicated… it could even be a call or a text… just something to connect and bring the spirit of the occasion.
This year “garden treats” made with chocolate cake mix, green dyed coconut “grass” and store-bought worms and roses (pictured above) were perfectly acceptable to create some joy for a family whose beautiful three children are about 4 years younger than mine. I remember those challenging years with a hazy memory and know how hard it was to do anything “extra” while caring for an infant. I wanted to brighten the Ridvan season of my friend that may not have been as “easy” as mine. We didn’t need a whole cake for our family and it was wonderful to be able to get my kids involved with serving someone else. Having the capacity to reach out to another mother was a true blessing and one that made my Holy Day even brighter. It takes a village to raise a child and I personally believe it’s important for all of us to become a part of that village whenever we can. This culture of giving and sharing and accepting help is something that can feel new and scary at times, and at the same time I think it’s really worth exploring more.
We all have a unique journey in this world and our experience of motherhood, as well as our experience of Holy Days, is no exception.
Each year will be different, and that’s part of what makes it fun and exciting. It’s not about what you do, but about how you help the children feel… the joy and connection created.
What season of motherhood are you in? And what is the purpose and spirit you desire for your family’s Holy Day celebrations? Maybe it’s something similar to a photo above or maybe it’s something completely new that we haven’t seen before…
We are all learning about the concept of commemorating these awe-inspiring occasions individually, in our families, and in our communities. It will be interesting to look back in 10 years and see how far we’ve come.