Thangachi’s Corner: Celebrating Our Holidays

This post is part of the Tamil Heritage Month Initiative. Tamil Heritage Month seeks to celebrate Tamil heritage, culture, and history. Throughout this month and January, we will be providing you with educational material and poetry that seeks to help us celebrate and understand our culture, roots and heritage.

January 15, 2014

Updated every other Wednesday, “Thangachi’s Corner” is a bi-monthly feature that discusses relatable topics and issues relevant to the Canadian Tamil youth of today. For more information about this feature or to suggest a topic, feel free to e-mail us at!

Written By: Keerthana Raveendran

Photo Credits: Keera Ratnam

Photo Credits: Keera Ratnam

For some of us, yesterday was a regular day. We got up in the morning, went to either school or work, had a mediocre meal to go with our mediocre routine and managed to make it home in one piece.

But for a lot of us Tamil folk, yesterday was special. We celebrated Thai Pongal, the harvest festival that takes place in early January to honour the sun, land and livestock for providing nourishment and sustaining our livelihood.

Now, isn’t that something?

Of course, when I say that we “celebrated” this joyous occasion, I really mean, “we cleaned our houses to Amma’s nagging and called it a day”. We probably even went to school like chumps. Maybe we took a short trip to the temple, or perhaps we ate some pongal, if we were lucky, but chances are, celebrations took place largely on the screen and less in life.

We Canadian Tamils have a terrible habit of spending our holidays in lacklustre fashion.

The work part? We’re great at that. We (or at least, some of us) will do the necessary cleaning, but when we get to the actual celebration, we are at a complete loss.

If we had been raised back home, this holiday would have been a terrific festivity. We would have dressed up in new clothing, decorated our houses with kolam, and visited the temple. We might have made special dishes at home, would have also exchanged gifts with family and friends. Perhaps we may have even lit fireworks or attended special programs. Back home, Thai Pongal is legit.

But here in Canada, we are exposed to a whole new set of challenges that makes slim our ability to celebrate the way our ancestors had. Restricted by Canadian law, we can hardly light fireworks wherever we want. Now, we are required to drive to temples rather than walk, and our kolam designs appear indoors rather than out, if at all. Living in a very mixed society, we do not necessarily cherish the same ûr of our parents—rather, the close sense of family and friends all celebrating the same traditions is transformed into one of Tamil folks desperately attempting to cling onto a solitary strain of culture amongst a colourful myriad of various other ethnicities.

So how exactly do we celebrate, then?

We are in a very different position from our ancestors. As one of the earlier generations of Tamil youth in Canada, we are presented with a marvellous opportunity—to craft our own traditions. We have both the occasion and the responsibility to raise awareness about our culture and to demand recognition for the holidays we celebrate. As youth, we can begin by exempting ourselves from school or asking for leave from work on major cultural landmarks such as Thai Pongal, in favour of cultural observance. After all, if festivities such as Christmas and Easter are nationally recognized, why not our holidays as well?

Because we make up the early generation of Tamils in Canada, only we can create the new traditions that will make up our cultural holidays—consider it a social obligation, if you will.

Who knows—maybe fifty years down the line, we’ll be the ancestors they talk about.

About the Author:

Keerthana Raveendran, known by her flock as Thangachi, is an aspiring author whose motivation to write usually kicks in when she’s supposed to be occupied elsewhere. She is an avid procrastinator who sees potential novel ideas as movies in her head. Maybe one of these days they’ll make it onto the page. Thangachi is currently a Masters student studying English at York University.

Painting by Keera Ratnam

Painting by Keera Ratnam


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