Santa Clara is home to a sizeable Indian population, so Diwali decorations were easily obtained at a local Indian grocer. Candles and light play an important role in Diwali. Open flames in a children’s program is rarely a good idea, so our Diwali diyas (clay lamps) were illuminated with LED tealights. The children were welcomed to the program by a peacock puppet, for the peacock is the national bird of India.
Our featured stories were Lighting A Lamp: a Diwali Story by Jonny Zucker and My Daddy is a Giant by Carl Novac. (The latter admittedly has nothing to do with Diwali, but was read in both English and Hindi.)
The staff member who read in Hindi also did a demonstration of how to drape a sari, the traditional dress of many Indian women. I was her willing model, and I was wrapped in a stunningly beautiful 18 feet long piece of silk. One of the storytime moms jumped up from the audience and helped our staff member dress me.
As one of our crafts, we decorated footprints representing a visit from the Hindu goddess of prosperity Lakshmi. (This craft, along with many other Diwali ideas, can be found on the Crayola website.) A small army of volunteers laminated pre-cut cardstock footprints I purchased, and the kids decorated them with adhesive jewels and foam flowers. We also had magnetic dots available, so the footprints could be displayed on refrigerators when taken home. Kids also created firework scenes using rainbow scratch off paper purchased from Lakeshore Learning. (Tip — the paper is sold in packs of 30 sheets, but only included 6 scratch off sticks. Wooden skewers purchased at the grocery store proved a great substitute.)
Indian friends told me they greatly miss the elaborate fireworks displays that mark the celebration of Diwali in their homeland. I couldn’t pull that one off, obviously, but I thought of a fun alternative. A fireworks DVD played on our jumbo screen during craft time, accompanied by Indian music thanks to the Pandora Bollywood station. The kids were mesmerized, and the parents got a chuckle at our attempt to recreate a traditional Diwali experience.
Our program needed to be short and sweet with minimal cleanup, since another library program was being held in the room almost immediately afterwards. We were able to hold the event and clean up afterwards in a little over an hour. With additional resources, this program could be taken to a completely different level with elements such as dancing, henna tattoos, and Indian sweets.
The rich diversity of our community is one of the many joys of working at Santa Clara City Library, and one of our department goals is to honor these many cultures through programs and collections. The large number of Indian families who regularly attend our family storytime expressed their appreciation at our recognition of their heritage, and other attendees were introduced to a new holiday and its colorful traditions.
Posted by Susan Baier, Santa Clara (CA) City Library