Raksha Bandhan is a Hindu festival/holiday that celebrates and commemorates the bond and duty between brothers and sisters. I've been blessed with the best brothers a girl could ask for. I grew up in a house full of older cousin brothers, who have influenced me in so many ways. My brothers spoil me year round, so I try to make an extra effort to make them feel special on Raksha Bandhan.
The tradition of Raksha Bandhan is that sisters feed their brothers a bite of something sweet or mithai, before tying the sacred thread or rakhi on their brothers, to signify their love and a prayer for protection. Brothers give their sisters a token gift in return. This year, Raksha Bandhan is Monday, August 7, 2017, so we still have plenty of time to prepare!
Every year, Raksha Bandhan tends to creep up on me, since it is usually in August after a busy summer of traveling. I usually try to make the rakhi's ahead of time, so I don't feel rushed in August. If you have a lot of brothers/cousin brothers (and if your daughters have many brothers/cousin brothers), I would definitely start making the rakhi's early.
I have 23 "brothers" (I grew up in a large household, living with many of my cousins, making us a very tight knit family). My husband also has a very large family, which means my daughter has over 30 cousin brothers. Combined, we send nearly 45 packages every year (thankfully, some brothers have the same address). Yes, I understand it sounds crazy, but it helps us stay close in each others hearts, even if we can't see each other often.
Here is a checklist I use to prepare for RAKHIPALOOZA.
1) SUPPLIES: Get embroidery floss in the colors of your brothers' favorite college/NFL/NBA, etc teams. I recommend getting them from the open bins, so you can choose your own colors. Pro tip: It's tempting, but avoid the shiny, glossy embroidery floss. It comes undone very fast because it is too slippery. Stick to the matte floss.
2) RAKHIS: You can buy them, but my brothers like the homemade ones without any embellishments that dig into their wrists. There are many YouTube videos on how to make a variety of friendship bracelets. However, if you need to make many rakhis in a hurry, I can knock about 20 in one hour this way. Here is a video tutorial from my wonderful friend, Nira Bhakta, on how we make our rakhis. This is very basic, but it gets the job done. If you only have a handful of rakhis to make, you may have time to make some really beautiful friendship bracelets.
i) Decide which 2 or 3 colors of embroidery floss you want to use and cut it. Be sure to use at least the length of your arm (shoulder to finger) for an adult rakhi. Once you make your first one, you can increase or decrease the length for your needs. Remember, this is for your brothers, you likely have larger wrists than you.
ii) Tie a knot at the end of the combined strings. Place the knot into the end of a clipboard.
iii) Twist! Twist! Twist your heart out! Really. Just keep twisting and be sure you don't let the tail end of the strings go. You'll notice a twisted pattern forming among the strings.
iv) Carefully find what appears to be the middle of the string and bend the entire string in half, while holding on carefully to the end of the twisted string. With the fingers that are holding the tail of the twisted end, carefully grasp the knotted end and the two halves will re-twist onto themselves.
v) Knot again at the original knotted end. Voila! Congratulations. You are now a rakhi making machine.
vi) Repeat 60 times. Just kidding (not in my case). Repeat for however many brothers you need rakhis for.
3) TREATS: I used to bake from scratch, but mailing baked goods in August is just risky and the thought of melted, broken cookies, brownies, with ants crawling all over doesn't really strike me as a "treat". Here are some alternatives that have worked for me in the past and have reportedly made it to my brothers safely:
a. Trail Mix: For the grown brothers, I usually make a healthy trail mix - based on Nom Nom Paleo's trail mix, adding dried cranberries for a nice pop of color (and flavor). The toasted coconut chips and dehydrated pineapple is a delicious combo!!! Try to get the dehydrated pineapple (rather than the sweetened version) and the apple juice sweetened cranberries to keep the sugar content low.
b. Annies Organic Snacks: For the younger cousins/brothers, I send these. No, they are not that healthy and they do have sugar. However, it travels well and as long as it is in a fairly tight fitting bubble mailer pack, it survives without too much crumbling.
c. Alternative-Dial a Sista!: If you have any cousin sisters or friends that live in the same city as your brothers/cousins, ask her to accept your box of goodies and distribute for you. This can save on time and shipping. For example, my cousin sister in Houston ties rakhi on all our (seven!) cousin brothers that we have in common. I just mail her my box of goodies to distribute beforehand.
4) LABELS: I use Avery’s Design & Print Online to design my labels – they have tons of templates and you can save them as pdf files (or to your account) to change color scheme, etc. while saving the names for the following year. This goes for address labels too!
5) SHIPPING: I have a spreadsheet that I check off as I mail everyone's rakhi off, but I am also managing 60+ brothers on the list. Most people can just get away with a handwritten list and mail them off in one trip. The USPS is my go to because they usually charge the same to get it there in 2-3 days (priority) as regular mail would cost.
It's still two months away, but I hope everyone has a happy Raksha Bandhan!