Vinayaka Chaturthi is the Hindu festival celebrating Ganesh’s birthday, which was celebrated last week (and into this week, too). Lord Ganesha, the elephant-head god, is the son of Shiva and Parvati. “Mom” Parvati made Ganesh out of clay or sandalwood paste, depending on the version, and gave him life to guard her whilst she bathed. “Dad” Shiva accidental chopped of Ganesh’s human head due to a case of mistaken identity — since Shiva had never seen his son before and since his son was preventing him from visiting Parvati, he … um… overreacted & chopped off Ganesh’s head. To appease Parvati (who was heartbroken over the loss of her son), Shiva gave Ganesh a elephant head to make up for the one he lost and restored him to life.
Hindus prey to Ganesh often, at the start of any new venture, as he is the Remover of Obstacles (as well as the god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune).
For his birthday, people make or buy clay figures of Ganesh and place them on an alter with sweets, fruit, flowers, fairy lights, etc. (Ganesh has a sweet tooth — he once ate so many sweets his tummy started to burst open, but he took a nearby snake to wear as belt to keep it together. Modak, sweet dumplings, were said to be his faves; I agree they are tasty!) After Ganesh sits on the alter for 1,3,5,7 or 11 days (I gather you can pick whatever suits your convenience), he is immersed in water. Often a bucket or tub at home (the water is then used in the garden) or a tank (man-made lake).
My friend P and her family invited us over for the holiday. It was great catching up with P. And she put out a great spread for Ganesh!