Modern reflections on a tradition of sibling bonds.
For one day a year, my children, Ariah who is 16 and Talen, 14, need to do something special together, just the two of them and take a normal photo. No tongues out, no paparazzi hand covers, no rabbit ears. “Why?" they ask. “It’s Rakhi and because I said so,” I reply.
Privilege of Siblings
Growing up as an immigrant family, my parents introduced traditions from their home country as a way to connect and instill family values in an unchartered country. Raksha Bandhan, also known as Rakhi, was one of those traditions in the Chabra household. The ceremony part is literally three minutes but the sentiment part is meant to last for the upcoming year. The premise is simple, a brother promises to protect his sister and in turn receives her blessings. I remember fondly tying a ceremonial rakhi tie on my brother and also having the privilege of tying one on my Father, on behalf of my Aunt, my Bua (father’s sister), who lived in Kenya. When they too immigrated to Canada, I extended the tradition to my 2 cousins... and we would repeat each August throughout our childhood. I felt super lucky to have 3 ‘brothers’ to tie rakhi on and I felt a real connection.
So naturally I’d want my children to at the very least be given that foundation so that they too can pick and choose and decide if it aligns with their lives and lifestyles as they grow up. Yes, naturally, but slightly harder than I thought :)
Modern Reflections on Sibling-hood
Sibling-hood is recognized in many cultures and the importance of such a bond is celebrated - if not on a special day, then with special roles for siblings during life milestones. We thought Soni said it best when reflecting on her special bond with her sister and brother “The sibling relationship will be the longest relationship of most people's lives. For us it means remaining close, watching out for one another and being there for each other always.”
In contemporary terms, sibling-like bonds, be them blood or not, help make shared experiences more exciting, relatable, and manageable. It’s an “in this together” type of mindset. Forces like immigration, globalization, urbanization, smaller family sizes means that blood relationships are not always accessible. Family dynamics also come with their own special levels of drama; it’s not all sunshine and roses. But for us, the sentiment of recognizing a sibling or sibling-like bond, extending it to all your real and adopted sisters and brothers, and inspiring a patriarchy-free occasion, feels like a great way to honour this tradition and bring it to the forefront. We were inspired by Lakshita, who grew up in India and whose parents invited both her and her brother to tie rakhis on each other. As Lakshita said, “My parents believed that it was important for both my brother and I to feel a sense of protection and shared love for one another, equally.”
In 2021, Rakhi is celebrated on August 22, however as we heard from our community, the actual date is not important and often the tradition is honoured on the closest weekend or combined with other family get-togethers like summer picnics or birthdays.