Let us celebrate our upcoming festivals in a different way, given the fact that the pandemic has already taken thousands of lives.
I recently started the campaign #differentDashain. The goal of this initiative is to help prevent a surge of COVID-19 cases within the Nepali-speaking Bhutanese community during the festival of Dashain and Tihar – which fall in the last week of October and second week of November respectively.
We celebrate both these festivals by gathering in both small and large groups, where a close physical proximity is unavoidable. The way we celebrate these great festivals is more than likely to increase transmission of COVID-19 from one person to another.
Traditions and people’s outlooks change. The idea of Dashain is not entirely rooted in physical gatherings and parties. According to Hindu mythology, the true purpose of Dashain is to simply celebrate the victory of good over evil. These other traditions of physical gatherings were added in order to help us feel connected and united as extended families.
However, unity and connections have transformed a lot since then, and they no longer require physical presence. The feeling of togetherness, although not completely similar, can be brought upon through numerous platforms such as FaceTime and Zoom, and therefore, it is now possible to celebrate Dashain/Tihar while remaining physically distant.
I want this message to go far and wide within the Nepali speaking Bhutanese community. Let’s find creative and safe ways to celebrate this year.
We have a group of youth and a planning committee working collectively on this effort. Working alongside Bhutanese Community Association of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County Health Department, we have made some great strides here in Pittsburgh regarding the discussion of safe celebrations. So far, we have a Facebook page (Different Dashain), an Instagram page (hamro_public_health) and a hashtag (#DifferentDashain).
Recently we also hosted a webinar for women in which we brought an epidemiologist and two nurses from within the community to speak about COVID-19, festivals, school safety, and social stigma. The webinar was a huge success as we received positive feedback from numerous attendees after the meeting. Many suggestions, such as celebrating outside with masks on or even only celebrating within immediate family, were presented and discussed. We have also organized webinars for youths.
However, reaching out to seniors due to their lack of knowledge and familiarity in technology has led to some delays and complications. Despite that setback, we are in the process of creating customized masks with our hashtag. These masks will be distributed for free a week before Dashain. We hope that the mask itself will serve as a reminder for people to celebrate differently, as well as help promote our initiative.
I am grateful to have received tremendous support and positive feedback from many members of our community. If you are interested in joining our team or want us to host a webinar for your local community, please feel free to reach out to us via any of our social media platforms.