Kashfia Kayes, Dhaka
Did you know that different cultures around the world have different calendars? In the Bengali calendar, today is the first day of the year 1427. The Bengali New Year, also know as Pohela Boishakh, is celebrated with family time, singing, fairs, parades and lots of delicious food! Men wear traditional panjabis and women wear red and white sarees with flower tiaras in their hair on this festive day.
We visit our friends and family and indulge in traditional mouth-watering Bengali dishes like pantabhaat (fermented rice), bhaja ilish (fried hilsa fish) and mashed delicacies called bhorta followed by sweet, intricately designed desserts known as pitha.
Pitha assortment. Photo credit Naim Chowdhury.
But this year is different. The quarantine measures due to the world-wide coronavirus pandemic have cut our celebrations a little short BUT there is nothing to be sad about! There are lots of things we can do at home to keep the festivities going with the entire family.
1. Paper mâché mask project: We see a lot of colourful masks at Pohela Boishakh parades. Just because we can’t join the parades this time around, doesn’t mean we can’t make them ourselves at home! There are several video tutorials on how to make these masks. This one here uses a balloon to make the mould of the faces!
2. Art exhibition: Why not a family art exhibition on this day of colours? Get the family together, cover the floor with newspapers, get your art supplies and get the party started! You can either decide on one theme to paint on or have many themes written in little chits in a bowl and let your fates decide. You can pour all your creativity in this one. Make designing the exhibition fun too! How are you curating the art? What are the fun captions under them? So many ways to make this interesting!
3. Make a flower tiara Fragrant and colourful flowers are everywhere at a Pohela Boishakh celebration. You can see them in the decor and also weaved craftily into braids and buns. Flower crowns or tiaras, especially, are huge hits with little ones. Check out this easy tutorial and make some gorgeous DIY head gear at home!
4. A family style meal made by the entire family: Involve your troop in this meal prep! Decide on a menu together, divide the workload and conquer the best homemade Pohela Boishakh meal ever! It’ll be fun to learn about the many many flavour profiles and items in the Bengali cuisine! Maybe even teach the family a childhood favourite or even turn it into the meal theme!
5. Virtual House party: Share this idea with more friends and family. Ask them to pitch in their ideas. Have a virtual house party on Zoom, Skype, Messenger, or any other video conferencing app. The more the merrier. You can share Pohela Boishakh memories, stories and even host a virtual ANTAKSHARI! The possibilities are endless!