Celebrating the Pongal Harvest Festival with Kids: making Pongal Clay Pots
Thai Pongal is a harvest festival celebrated in south and central India usually from January 14 through the 17th (though sometimes it is celebrated the 13th through the 16th). It signifies the beginning of the sun’s six month journey northwards. It is similar to many new years’ celebrations in other cultures where we throw out the old and celebrate the new. People clean their houses and decorate with elaborate sand mandalas on their floors and patios. They also get together with friends and family to eat pongal which is a sweet rice dish. The rice is usually boiled in a clay pot that is decorated with mandalas, suns, wheat and even cows which symbolize new life and agriculture.
To help us learn some about this holiday, we made our own pongal pots out of air-dry clay. We didn’t make them to cook rice, that would require a kiln, but it was fun to make little pots by hand and paint them with Pongal-celebatory decorations.
Air-dry clay is one of my favorite crafting mediums and I’m still learning a lot about it. I’m not a skilled potter but making a quick pinch pot or a coil pot is pretty easy to pick up. Our pots were a little wobbly and rough but fun to make still the same. Playing with air-dry clay is relatively easy to clean up and much more workable that regular play dough. When you’re done just leave it to dry 2 to 4 days (depending on the humidity level of your area). When the clay turns from a gray color to white (if you are using white clay like us) and it feels nice and hard, it’s ready to paint!
We painted our pots with kid-safe acrylic craft paint. You can paint flowers or wheat, sunshine or even a cow or just plain old pink on them if you like. These little pots are not food-safe (too porous) and they don’t hold water but they are pretty to look at and make for great keepsakes. You can even celebrate Pongal further by filling them with dry rice and sticking in a few dried flowers!