Are you ready for Raksha Bandhan? It’s August 13th this year.
I know, that’s 10 days away. But if you’re not Hindu, and this is your first Raksha Bandhan, you might need some time to prepare yourself to celebrate. The way I understand it, Raksha Bandhan is a celebration of siblings. It started out a bit gender-biased, as a day when girls, after a prayer ceremony, tied rakhi, protective amulet bracelets, around their brothers’ wrists, wishing them good luck and happiness. In return, the brother would give his sister gifts and promise to support her. Now, if you’re like me, you probably know many families in which the support is a two-way street; especially if there’s an older sister and a younger brother. But that’s OK, because nowadays, the holiday has expanded to become a celebration of siblings, and the rakhi tied on siblings’ wrists symbolize the siblings’ eternal bond of love. The name of the holiday itself–Raksha Bandhan–means “bond of protection.”
Raksha Bandhan takes place on the full moon of the monsoon month, and while it has many creation myths, my fave is that the first holiday was celebrated by Yama, Lord of the Dead, and his sister, Yamuna, one of India’s holy rivers. Apparently, she tied a rakhi onto his wrist and made him immortal; he was so touched that he decreed any brother who has the same experience, and promises his sister protection, would become immortal as well. Not to get all syncretic on you, but this makes me think of 1 Corinthians 13, “Love never ends”, because the brother will live on in his sister’s love. And I like that this is a celebration of fraternal love, as opposed to romantic, which gets all the coverage these days.
I think we could use a Sibling Revelry Day, the way we have Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day. I know people would complain and call it a “Hallmark Holiday”, but as I’ve said before, I’m all for an excuse, and a reminder, to acknowledge someone you love. Not everyone gets a sibling; shouldn’t we celebrate having one?
So, I wanted to give you enough time to prepare for Raksha Bandhan, to stock up on your gifts. Maybe you need to pick up some rakhi from ExclusivelyIn.com? I like this set which features rakhi lumba, special sister-in-law bracelets. Or perhaps you’re a brother, who knows his sister would LOVE a Rajasthani barbie, available on the same site?
But I’ve also been thinking a lot about siblings lately because my sister just bought her ticket to try and get here in time for Amalía’s birth. If she makes it, she, along with my husband, will be what our hypnobirthing text calls my “birth companion,” the person in the birthing room with us. She is the perfect person to do so, because she has lay doula training, and she’s also both very calming and more aggressive than I am about asking for things I might want (extra pillows? intermittent fetal monitoring? That’s a job for Tía Marina!).
I hope she makes it in time, because I think it would be great for Amalía to have a mom, a dad, and an auntie all adoring her when she shows up. I realized recently that at my birth, my mom was knocked out (it being a C-section) and my dad was in the waiting room, so it was just me and a bunch of strange doctors and nurses doing their job. I’m sure this is similar to most births of people my age, and certainly those who are older, whose moms were medicated into a “twilight sleep” state. We got born, we survivied, it all worked out, but it does sound a little lonely.
But even if Tía Marina doesn’t make it in time (she’s due to arrive, coincidentally, the day before Rakshi Bandhan), Amalía has already spent lots of time with her in utero, and will benefit from her calming but sassy presence in her life. (Did I mention that the onesie Tía Marina designed for Amalía features a polka-dot bikini? Enough said.)
Having siblings is not always a sashay around the sweet tray; when I was in middle school and Marina was in lower school and wanted to hang out with me all the time, I wished she would go far, far away; now that she lives across the country I wish she lived next door. But your siblings are in it with you; they are the other citizens in the mini civilization that is the house in which you grew up.
It’s definitely a good thing Raksha Bandhan has expanded its scope to include sisters, siblings in law, cousins. We need all the sibling figures we can get. And when I called Marina to tell her that the baby I’m carrying was a little girl, the first thing she said was, “She’s going to need a sister!”