If you are keen to immerse yourself into a country during your gap year, there is arguably no better country than Nepal.
With welcoming families and appreciative children at school, the numerous festivals that take place during the year really are the ‘icing on the cake’ of your well spent gap year.
Here we look at some of the most popular festivals, as described by former volunteer, Roisin.
Around August/September time all the Hindu married women wear beautiful, glittery red saris with gorgeous patterns on and pray from early dawn to Lord Shiva to celebrate their husbands and families. There is a lot of singing and dancing, as the women celebrate themselves as well.
Around October time, Tihar, the festival of light, is celebrated. It lasts 5 days just after Dashain. The people worship Laxmi- the Goddess of wealth. Every single house in the village was painted and decorated. One house had painted a massive, brightly coloured flower on one wall and a picture of a huge yellow and orange sun on the other! They believe that Goddess Laxmi will only come to the cleanest and most bright houses so the Nepalis light candles and oil lamps to attract her. Every house looked so cosy and welcoming. Each day they celebrate a different animal, for example, the crow- the messenger, the dog- the guardian, the cow-the symbol of wealth. Sarah and I, a fellow volunteer, went out with the children at night and sang at people’s doorsteps.
Sarah and I went over to Jenny’s for Tihar as there had been a death in the family and they don’t celebrate Tihar when such an event has occurred. Jenny’s family were Newari who also celebrate the Newari New Year at this time. They observe Mha puja, which is the ritual of worshipping one’s own body and life. We had many different colours of Tikha, each colour meaning something different. The elders had to Tikha first, the youngest last. They would put a divide of water and oil between the males and females of the family to keep evil spirits away.
Celebrated by everyone for 15 days in the Nepalese month of Kartik (late September), Dashain is the biggest festival in Nepal. They worship Goddess Durga who defeated the demon Mahisasur, which symbolises the triumph of good over evil. Each home is cleaned and decorated, while the people buy new clothes for each other. It is a family time and it’s traditional for many relatives to reunite during this holiday. I will always remember the night of the eighth day, ‘Kal Ratri’, the dark night. This is when they sacrifice goats, sheep and buffaloes. Our family sacrificed two goats, as we had rather a large family. Duncan’s family had planned to sacrifice the buffalo but she never gave birth so they had to sacrifice the chicken instead!! The god Vishwa Karma, the God of Creativity is also worshipped. All the taxi drivers had worshipped their cars with garlands of flowers and ribbons and Jenny’s Nepali brother had worshipped his motorbike. All families Tikha each other and feast on the meat. It is a very colourful and joyous time in Nepal.
Feeling inspired? Check out our volunteer teaching in Nepal programme and experience the festivals for yourself!