Around this time every year, Hindus all over the world celebrate the victory of enlightenment over darkness. Diwali, or the “Festival of Lights,” is celebrated on the darkest night of the Hindu month of Kartika, at the beginning of a new lunar cycle. For a number of Indian ethnic groups, Diwali marks the start of a new year!
While there are many interpretations of the significance of Diwali and the many ways the occasion is celebrated, the holiday is a deeply unifying event for the distantly spread, culturally Indian diaspora. Although the celebration is actually five days long, the third day is the most widely-celebrated and significant.
Like any major holiday, the entertainment industry isn’t far behind. Shah Rukh Khan’s heist-comedy “Happy New Year” is this year’s Diwali blockbuster release. Bollywood stars themselves know how to bring in the new year, by hosting lavish, star-studded parties that last all night and into the morning.
What Exactly Goes Down on Diwali?
Family Get-Togethers — On the day of Diwali, families worship together in temples. Usually, extended families come together in one area. Playing card games like Bridge and Court piece is popular, so it’s likely that families will get together for a (sometimes intensely competitive) card game. That means seeing those random aunts, uncles and cousins you forgot you even had! It also means a LOT of traffic in the larger cities like Delhi and Mumbai.
|A Hindu priest performing puja, a prayer ritual|
Creative Expressions — Brightly colored patterns designed from colored sand and flour, called rangoli, decorate the ground. Rangoli designs can take many different shapes and are a great way to express creativity with a spiritual theme!
Dazzling Lights and Fireworks — Lights, or “divas,” are strung across doorways, floated in water, and placed in windows. Fireworks and sparklers are set off in the street, symbolizing the holiday’s celebration of light.
And Don’t Forget the Gifts! — Gift-giving is a deeply rooted Diwali tradition, as the holiday also celebrates prosperity. While Diwali gifts of yesteryear may have been spiritually-themed, the rapid modernization of Indian society over the last few decades means Diwali presents reflect growing commercialism. For acquaintances, it’s common to give mithai (pronounced mih-TIE), delicious Indian sweets that everyone has to try (more than) once!
|Jalebi (pronounced juh-LAY-bee), a common type of mithai|
Where Is Diwali Being Celebrated Around the World?
There are many options when it comes to celebrating the holiday — here is a list of a few major events by continent to get you started!
, Canada (movie screening available)
27th Annual Deepavali Festival, was held on October 5, New York City
(movie screening available)
Regardless of how we choose to observe Diwali, everyone can celebrate a spark of fire in the darkness! Will you make plans to celebrate Diwali? Want to get in on the fun? Let us know in the comments!