Dasain is definitely in the air.
Children are on holidays from school, the shopping areas are packed and the newspapers are full of articles about how people have lost the true meaning of the holiday now our lives are so full of meaningless junk (yes, it all sounds too familiar).
Dasain officially started last Thursday and is 15 days of the most important festivities in the Nepali Hindu calendar. Much like Lent and Christmas, for most people the earlier days of the festival aren't that important. The biggest day is the 10th day, where the elders of the family bestow tika (red colouring, rice and yoghurt) on the foreheads of the family. Everyone gets dressed up and eats lots. Fortuntely I've got a family or two to be adopted by for the festivities - and I've got some new threads to pick up as well.
The other important day is the 9th, and to a lesser extent the 8th. These are the most popular days of slaughter and sacrifice. Slaughter? I thought we were drawing parallels between Christmas and Dasain just moments ago. Well, the whole point of Dasain is to honour the Goddess Durga, who saved existence by defeating an evil demon disguised as a buffalo. To keep Durga happy for the year the family slaughter an animal and bless things with it - houses, cars, etc. The standard middle class procedure is for goat, but if you're poor it might be a chicken and large temples receive buffalo for slaughter. The animal is generally eaten by the family afterwards, think of it as killing your own Christmas turkey.
Most Buddhists (and myself) find the mass slaughter rather disturbing. Many of them will visit their local temples over the next few days to pray for the animals being killed. I, on the other hand, will not be visiting anywhere this Saturday.
Of course, the other reminder that it's Dasain is the goat being kept somewhere in the neighbourhood that woke me up early this morning with it's pitiful bleating - but I can hardly get too annoyed with it, I know it won't be around to keep me awake for too long.