Diwali in North America

To experience spicy food, vibrant colors, foot tapping Bollywood music and traditional Indian arts, music and crafts, you don’t have to travel to India. Although, celebrating Diwali in India has its own magic, you can experience the spirit of the season almost anywhere in the world. Many cities in the US, UK, Canada and other western countries that have a considerable Indian population, host Diwali celebrations in one form or another. Some of them are quite spectacular, not very different from July 4th celebrations.

This Diwali, if you can’t make it to India, be sure to check out what your city has in store. There’s sure to be a Diwali Mela somewhere in your city or in a neighboring city. Take some time off to enjoy India’s biggest festival with your family and don’t forget to send free Diwali ecards to your friends and family.

  1. Atlanta : Oct 9 2009 : Win a diamond ring for Diwali! Enjoy an evening of fun, food and fireworks with your family at Festival of Lights – A cultural Extravaganza, a program organized by DesiRoots. Celebrations include cultural performances, food stalls, shops, games and fireworks, starting at 5 pm. Please note: this program was initially scheduled for Sep 18, but has been postponed to Oct 9 due to inclement weather in Atlanta. So, don’t miss this second chance! Who knows – you may even walk out with a diamond ring. http://www.desiroots.net/
  2. Dallas : Oct 4th 2009 : How would you like to celebrate Diwali in the state-of-the-art Cowboys stadium? This year, if you truly want to experience the grandeur and spectacular nature of Diwali celebrations, then don’t miss the Diwali Mela 2009 in Arlington, TX. Programs and activities include cultural performances including a special Ram Leela production, kids games, magic shows, animal rides and raas, garba dances in which you can participate with your family. http://www.dfwdiwalimela.com/
  3. San Francisco Bay Area: Experience the most colorful aspects of India and the festival of lights, by making it to the Cupertino Diwali celebrations. Highlights include dance performances from various parts of India, Bollywood dances, kids’ shows, animal rides, games, wood workshops, coloring contests, Mehendi or henna booths, food courts, Indian bazaars and handicraft displays. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/09/23/NSUC19OO4H.DTL
  4. San Francisco, Oct  9-11: How would you like to be transported to India, just for Diwali? There is a chance that this will happen if you participate in the Sunnyvale Hindu Temple Diwali celebrations. Slated to be the biggest Diwali event of Bay Area, this 3-day long festival features classical concerts by seasoned musicians and performances by local artists. Other programs include cultural performances, talent shows and games like Antakshari in which you can participate with your family. Food booths and handicrafts displays enrich your experience as you celebrate the festival of lights in sunny California.http://www.sunnyvaletemple.org/diwali2009.htm.
  5. Vancouver, Oct 18 – 12-7 pm : If you’re in Vancouver and wish to experience the fervor of Diwali, then mark your calendar right now – Downtown Diwali – is an event like none other.  A day-long extravaganza that combines the finest elements of traditional, classical South Asian arts with contemporary, fusion forms. The event promotes local South Asian artists, presenting performances in various styles – Bharatnatyam, Bhangra, Hindustani, Bollywood, Jazz, fusion, hip hop. Besides Downtown Diwali, several other arts and culture workshops and performances will take place throughout the month at various locations. These include Diya or lamp painting workshops, workshops that teach the art of wearing a sari and others.  So, this Diwali season, experience a slice of India in Vancouver.  http://www.vandiwali.ca/events/

So, where will you be celebrating Diwali this year?

And be sure to upload a picture from the Diwali Mela you go to and create a free photo ecard to share with your friends and family.

Origins of Halloween

My favorite holiday of the entire year is quickly approaching.  I’m not talking about Christmas or Thanksgiving, or any of our more ‘sacred’ holidays, but Halloween, the most frighteningly fun day of the year.  And I’m not alone in my love of Halloween, either: outside of Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year’s, Halloween is the third most popular holiday in America; and it is the second most popular holiday in the entire world!  But as popular as Halloween is, a lot of people still aren’t fully familiar with its roots.

Depending on your age (mostly), Halloween today is either a time to dress up in costumes and go trick-or-treating; or it’s a time to gather with friends, watch scary movies and throw parties.  Halloween’s more sacred origins, by all accounts, have kind of fallen by the wayside.  Though it’s mostly a secular holiday today, its origins do have spiritual, if not exactly religious, undertones.

All the way back in the 9th century, Irish Celts put on an annual festival, known as Samhain, to commemorate the end of harvest season.  With all their crops put into storage and resting right on the cusp of winter, the Celts would take inventory of the supplies already harvested, and slaughter livestock for winter storage.  They also believed that on one single day of the year—October 31st—the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead would dissolve.

The spirits of the dead, the Celts thought, would come through that dissolved boundary, and wreak havoc on the living, most damaging by attacking their crops.  And so in efforts to ward off the spirits, great bonfires were built.  Spirits were supposedly afraid of fire, and it was thought that throwing the bones of recently-slaughtered animals into these fires would make them burn hotter and more brightly.

The custom of wearing costumes comes directly from these festivals, too.  Though costumes today run the gambit from princesses to smiling, friendly ghosts, the costumes worn at Samhain were universally evil-looking ghouls.  Some of the costumes were designed to resemble what the Celts thought evil spirits looked like—the thinking was that evil spirits would see the Celts in their costumes, and move on, thinking the area was already ‘covered.’  Other costumes were designed to be as horrifying as possible, in the hopes that the evil spirits themselves would be scared away.

Trick-or-treating also comes from Ireland, albeit not specifically from the Samhain festivals.  Trick-or-treating likely has its roots in a centuries-old Irish and British custom called ‘souling.’  On Hallowmas, or November 1st, poor villagers would go door-to-door to the homes of the rich.  The poor folks would offer sacred prayers for the souls of dead family members, and in return for their prayers they were given food.  Over the centuries, of course, souling has merged with Halloween itself, and instead of offering prayers for food, children make light-hearted threats of playing tricks, unless they are given candy.

Though we don’t really afford Halloween the same serious respect as we do other holidays like Christmas, Halloween, like most holidays, has a very sacred and important past.  I hope that knowing a little bit more about where this great holiday has its roots will help you enjoy it, just a little bit more! and why not get into the spirit of things and send send out halloween ecards now.

Free Birthday Ecards

Recently I came across some interesting facts about greeting cards some of them are listed below.

Do you know that there are about 7 billion greetings cards purchased every year? Of which 50% is for birthday, thank you, get well soon etc. and the other 50% is event related like Christmas etc. So every year about 1.5 billion Birthday cards are sent out.

Women purchase more than 80% of all cards. On our site has about 64% women visitors.

Do you know that in average a person receives 20 cards in a year and about 30% of it is birthday related? We wish we had such numbers for free ecards. But we definitely know that birthday is the most popular category. So why not send out free birthday ecards, today?

Durga Puja 2009

Some of you requested that we list the days of Durga Puja 2009 especially since it is a 4 day event. So here are the dates –
25th September 2009 Saptami
26th September 2009 Mahashtami
27th September 2009 Navami
28th September 2009 Vijaya Dasami

Hope you have fun during this festival. If you have not done so send out your Durga Puja Ecards and Navratri Ecards. Read about Durga Puja here

Diwali The Mother of all Indian Festivals

Holidays are here.

Maybe not in the US and other Western countries, yet.

But, in India, the festival season has already swung into action with the onset of Navarathri and Durga Puja.

The next big festival of course is Deepavali or Diwali – the festival of lights. This is one occasion that people of all faiths celebrate. Although Diwali has its roots in Hindu mythology, the manner in which it is celebrated is such that people of all faiths and walks of life join in the festivities.

Diwali Preparations

Celebrations include meticulous planning of family meals. Exotic sweet dishes and savories are prepared for the occasion in large quantities to be shared with neighbors and friends. People clean their homes(much like spring cleaning), and beautify it in preparation for Diwali. Walls are washed and painted. Festoons and flowers are used to decorate walls, ceilings, door frames and windows. Earthen lamps are brought out, washed, cleaned and set out to dry in the sun. Some are even decorated with paint. Families, especially those with young children purchase several packs of fire crackers and sparklers weeks in advance. Children find it exciting to discover the latest fire crackers on the market and compete with each other, showing off their best buys.

Diwali Eve

Celebrations officially begin on Diwali eve. Women dressed in their finest traditional garments, light up dozens of earthen lamps. They fill them with oil or ghee and after lighting them, carry them on trays to different parts of the house and set them down in decorative arrangements. The front porch, backyard, window sills, doorways, roofs, balconies – all take on a beautiful glow, adorned with rows and rows of lamps. Rangolis or colorful, floral patterns are created on the floor in front of the house and in other prominent places. Guests begin arriving. Families come out into the courtyard or street to enjoy a display of fire crackers and to greet each other.

Diwali Day

In some parts of India Diwali begins with a Mangal Snaan (Holy Bath.) People awake at dawn and apply oil to their hair and body before bathing. Wearing new clothes, they offer prayers before going out to meet friends and family and participating in a fireworks display. A grand feast is prepared and the whole family, including members of the extended family, meets for lunch. Some visit temples or other relatives during the day to

share sweet dishes and to exchange gifts and greetings.

In other places, Diwali celebrations begin only at dusk. People gather to greet each other and enjoy a family dinner. This is followed by partying and games. A popular custom is that of playing cards through the night. In North India, this is considered auspicious and a means to invoke Goddess Lakshmi who represents wealth. Diwali is considered to mark the beginning of the new year and thus, people pray for a year of good fortune.

New movies come to theatres on Diwali day in most Indian states. People throng the theatres to catch the first show. The past decade has seen a decline in families going out and celebrating Diwali with friends and family as specially produced Diwali themed TV shows claim their time.

Free Diwali Ecards

No matter how you celebrate Diwali, sending a free ecard will only take a minute. It tells your loved ones that you’re thinking of them on the auspicious occasion. Our animated Diwali ecards represent all the wonderful aspects of the festival from Rangolis to rows of lamps, fireworks to sharing boxes of sweets. So, even if you’re not celebrating Diwali with family, our free ecards serve as a reminder of each its beautiful elements. And if you are, then, there’s no better way to reinforce the Diwali spirit than with a free ecard.

Durga Puja

Have you sent out Durga Puja ecards or your Navratri eCards to your loved ones? If not, there’s still time.

Navarathri or Dussehra begins in a couple of days, right after the new moon or Amavasya night. So, go ahead and select from our free Durga Puja cards and send them to your friends and family on this auspicious occasion. Send as many durga puja ecards as you want, to as many loved ones as you want. They will still cost you nothing.

Our selection of free Durga Puja ecards includes colorfully animated cards with music, poetry and drum beats that will transport you magically to your hometown or childhood memories when you celebrated these festivals with family. Even if you’re not spending the holidays with your family and friends, these free ecards capture the essence of the celebrations and help convey your heartfelt wishes across the globe.

If you prefer a more personalized way of greeting your family, then head to our Photo eCards section. Simply upload a picture of you, your family or any symbol that represents Durga Puja for you, add your personal message and send it. What better way to let your family know that you’re thinking of them? Ecards are great for sending your children or younger siblings your best wishes and also for seeking the blessings of elders – both of which are essential components of Durga Puja and Navarathri.

Here’s wishing you and your family a beautiful Navarathri season and a happy Durga Puja.

How to arrange a Navarathri Golu?


So, what exactly is a Golu and how do you arrange one?

As mentioned in a previous post, in many parts of South India, one of the key elements of Dussehra or Navarathri festival is the traditional arrangement of dolls in the form of a multi-step display. The golu is central to Navarathri, with ladies of the household planning for it months in advance. New dolls are purchased every year and the collection updated with the latest arrivals in the market. Kids are encouraged to participate by making crafts and helping to build miniature gardens, parks or other models. The grandparents and other elders assist by dusting and cleaning the dolls and getting them ready for display. They also provide guidance and directions with regards to how the Golu should be arranged.

The actual arrangement involves the following steps –

  1. On Mahalaya Amavasya day, the auspicious new moon day when Mother Goddess Durga is invoked, the golu steps are brought out and set up. Some households have professionally built wooden or steel steps for the purpose. Others use make-shift steps constructed out of cardboard boxes, coffee tables and chairs. What is important is to create a multi-step like platform for the display of dolls. It is customary to construct steps of 3, 5, 7 or 9.
  2. The steps are then covered with a clean sheet of cloth, traditionally a white Dhoti. Nowadays, colorful saris and other types of attractive fabric are also used in some Golus that deviate from the conventional. The fabric is pinned up neatly so as to fit to the contour of the steps, creating a bright backdrop for the grand display.
  3. The Kalash or the auspicious coconut is placed within a silver or brass pot. It is placed at the centre of the top most step.
  4. This is followed by the ‘Marapachi’ dolls – which are a male and female pair of dolls that are characteristic of every Golu. Part of the arrangement involves decorating this couple in fine garments and ornaments made out of shiny paper, sequins or other decorative material.
  5. Beginning with Ganesha, all the other idols are placed one after another. There is no hard and fast rule as to which deity goes where, but generally, the top steps are reserved for deities, while the bottom steps are occupied by animal, human and inanimate statues.
  6. Popular Golu collections include the Dasavathar set, Lord Krishna’s Ras Leela, Ganesha in different poses, Shiva and Parvathi, a marriage party set, a shopkeeper or grocer set complete with all the grocery items and weights as seen in a traditional Indian grocer’s.
  7. Creativity is the main element of a Golu. So, within a broad framework, the golu is basically an expression of originality and creativity – an opportunity for people, especially women, to take a break from monotonous housework and unleash their talents on the occasion of Navarathri. There is really no limit to what can be displayed.
  8. Examples of unique and original displays include a miniature model of an Olympic stadium, a cityscape, a cruise ship, a temple on a hilltop, a home-made fountain or volcano, a world famous park or forest, a mall or multistoried shopping center.
  9. Many of these are made with recycled material found at home, although there are people who spend time, money and painstaking effort on building professional looking models.
  10. Children help with building parks or forests by soaking grams a few days ahead and sprouting them.
  11. Other decorative elements such as Christmas lights, flower garlands, Rangoli, beads and handicrafts enhance the golu and differentiate one golu from another.
  12. Of course, what breathes life into a golu is all the activities that surround it. Women and children dressed in finery visit each other’s homes to admire the golus, sing songs, exchange sweets and gifts. There is a healthy competition among neighbors, as everyone tries to create the most beautiful Golu in town. Ideas are freely shared and improvised, recipes exchanged, compliments showered.
    The Golu, at the end of the day, is a reflection of many of the aspects of Indian culture at its glorious best.

If you have never seen a Golu, head to a South Indian home today. You are likely to experience something quite extraordinary, and come back with a bag full of goodies!

When is Durga Puja

We have recently written about couple of Indian Festivals that are coming up. They seem to be kicking off the whole holiday season Halloween,  Thanksgiving and Christmas. So some of you have asked when is Durga Puja. This year Durga Puja is early generally it is in October. However, this year the traditional first day Sptami is on 26th September 2009 and Vijaya is on 29th.

So we have a added a few new durga puja ecards hope you enjoy it and go out and enjoy the celebrations.

Photo Cards

New Customizable Photo Cards!

We here at Got-Free-Ecards are constantly trying to improve the service we provide.  So many people have fallen in love with our free ecards and  free animated ecards, that we’re adding a brand new feature: totally interactive, completely customizable photo ecards, that you can print out at home, using your own printer!

Like most new things, though, even though this feature is incredibly easy to use, it may seem a little daunting to the first-time user.  But if you check out these handy, step-by-step instructions, you’ll be well on your way to creating your own homemade printable ecards.

And remember: like everything else here at Got-Free-Ecards, this feature is absolutely free, and there’s no registration necessary!

First, of course, you need to point your browser to the photo cards website.

    • Once there, you’ll see all the different categories of cards you can make, from simple Christmas and Birthday cards, to Thank you cards and everything in between.  Pick your occasion, and on the next screen, you’ll see a list of templates.  Pick your favorite design, and click on it to go to the template.
    • On the next screen, you’ll see your chosen design, along with a “dummy” photo, that you’ll be changing in just a minute to your very own photo.
    • If you rest your cursor anywhere on the image, you’ll see a list of options pop up.  You can choose to zoom in and out of your photo; you can rotate the image; and you can even click to choose the best fit for the space available.  For now, though, click the “Upload Photo” option.
    • A box exploring your computer will pop up on the screen.  Simply go through your files, choose the photo you want to work with, and click “Open.”
    • After the system is done loading, you should see your photo on the screen, in place of the dummy photo.  Now it’s time to zoom, rotate, and fit the photo, until it suits you just right.
    • Now, below your photo, you see the text box?  We have some pre-loaded messages, each of them holiday specific, but you can customize these, as well.  If you hover your mouse over the text box and hold down your mouse button, you can drag the text box anywhere you want it on the screen.
    • And if you click inside the text box, you can change the message itself.  Just delete and type!
    • Now it’s time to edit your font.  Using the options near the bottom of the screen, if you highlight your text, you can choose the font color, the style (as in bold or italics), and if you want the font itself to have left, right, center, or justified alignment.
    • Now, there’s one more important step: click print!  Yep, that’s right!  You’re done!

The custom of Navarathri Golu

What Durga Puja is to West Bengal, the Navarathri Bomma Golu is to Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. This custom of creating a special display of dolls during Navarathri has multi-layered significance.

Navarathri Golu is a lot of fun.

Golu, or ‘display’ is a tradition where people create an arrangement of steps in their homes, and use it to showcase their most beautiful collection of traditional dolls, statues and other decorative items. Usually, nine steps are arranged. However, 3, 5 or 7 stepped Golus are also common. The more dolls you wish to display, and the more space you have, the larger your Golu could be. Even temples and public halls display their own Golus in a much larger scale, with some life-size statues of deities and three-dimensional models.

Golu Unleashes Combined Creativity

It’s not just about arranging the statues, though. This is the time when creativity peaks in many households, as children and adults come together to make their Golu unique by building mini parks, zoos, cities and other models besides the main step-like display. Plans are made weeks ahead. This is a great occasion for families to spend quality time making crafts and building display items together.

Golu offers a feast for your senses

During Navarathri, women and girls are invited to each other’s homes to view the golu and accept small gifts. Women sing in praise of the Lord as they admire each other’s Golu displays. Lentils are cooked and constitute the main snack during Navarathri evenings. Houses are decorated with lamps and flour drawings (Kolam or Rangoli) on the floors.

The custom of Navarathri Golu serves many functions.

  1. It encourages socializing, especially among women and children who in olden days did not have the opportunity to mingle with people outside their families. Today, when busy lifestyles and work schedules leave us with little time to visit friends and neighbors, this custom provides an opportunity to meet people and unwind after a hectic day. The Navarathri season is a great time for community events and group celebrations.
  2. Women usually get together to sing or chant shlokas (holy verses) in praise of Goddesses Lakshmi, Saraswathi and Durga. Thus, many modern day women who don’t have the time or inclination to practice music or singing regularly, have the opportunity to learn new songs, refresh their memories and exercise their vocal chords, thus providing them with a creative outlet.
  3. The display itself is based on a structure – the lower steps allocated for inanimate objects, decorative items and animal statues. Statues of demi-gods and Gods are placed on the upper steps, the topmost step being reserved for the sacred Kalash or Kumbh (a silver or brass pot with a coconut placed at its mouth, representative of creation) and chief deities such as Ganesha, Shiva and others. This arrangement is both aesthetic and symbolic.
  4. Traditional Golu dolls are generally passed on from mother to daughter and so make wonderful family heirlooms. Preserving and passing these dolls on is a part of the south Indian culture and the custom of Navarathri Golu plays a role in keeping this rich culture and its elements such as dance, music and crafts alive.

Greeting friends and family, especially parents, grandparents and other elders to seek their blessings is an important part of Navarathri, just as any other Indian festival. This year, if you are unable to celebrate Navarathri with them for some reason, Free Ecards could be a great way to send your wishes instead. Choose from our selection of Free Durga Puja ecards and brighten their hearts this Navarathri. You could also use your own photos and create personalized photo cards if you prefer.

What is your favorite Navarthri custom?