It is a day to celebrate the Lord of Beginnings, Remover of Obstacles, icon of wisdom.  Growing up, this day was always special in my family – perhaps because it always fell right before the start of the new school year.  We typically had a small prayer ceremony followed by lots of food.  It was a chance for us to clear our minds of summer frivolities and to look forward to the challenges ahead.

My parents have this tradition (which we continue with the grandchildren) where each person in the family selects 1 book to involve in the prayer ceremony.  We mark  the inside cover with a turmeric and kumkum “Sri” – a (semi) permanent stamp which serves as a reminder of this day each time the book is opened.  Throughout the year, when my son opens one of the chosen books, he loves to point out that “we did pooja for it.”

Getting to select a book is perhaps the most exciting part of the day for the kids.  It’s a way to directly involve them in the ceremony.  They also learn to associate Ganesha with books and learning.  Personally, I feel that understanding this connection (and hopefully effectuating a reverence for knowledge) is more important than learning about the story of Ganesha himself.  It really is a gruesome tale – Shiva, Ganesha’s father, cuts his head off?  Thankfully, my son hasn’t asked me why Ganesha has an elephant head…

So what were the lucky books this year?  Ahilan chose Clifford’s Neighborhood and his sister chose The Hiccuping Hippo.  We even had a special guest at the pooja – Baby Leap Frog.  Ahilan annointed him with kumkum and insisted that we perform aarti to him as well.  Hey, whatever works for him…


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