Diwali, the festival of lights, is an important festival for people around the world. Friends and family get together over lights, fireworks and delicious food. Diwali celebration lasts 5 days and is usually between October and November. Badi (big) Diwali falls on a no-moon night, and people of South Asian heritage around the world decorate their homes, wear new clothes and cook festive dishes to celebrate. Earthen lamps, tapers and strings of lights brighten up homes to welcome Lakshmi, the Goddess of luck and prosperity. Fireworks light up the night sky. For many people, this festival symbolizes the victory of good over evil, the end of the harvest season and the start of a new year.
That’s the story behind Diwali celebration, the biggest festival for more than a billion Hindus, Sikhs and Jains around the world.
Recently I learnt Hanukkah is also called the Festival of Light. It is amazing how two such different observations from opposite corners of the world can have a similar essence and the same name.
Diwali Celebration in Canada
I remember our first Diwali in Canada. It was a cold November night and I figured out too late that the earthen lamps and candles just wouldn’t stay alight outside in the damp Canadian wind.
People decorate and share plates of Indian sweets – mithai – to gift to their family and friends. One of my favourite memories in India is going around the neighbourhood with my brother, carrying trays of sweets. In Canada, those first few years we didn’t know many people. In fact, I’m not sure if we knew anyone else in our condo building. So exchanging trays of sweets was out. But that changed over the years, and my hubby and I have worked hard to retain many of the traditions we grew up with. At the same time, we have created new traditions and memories in our new home, in Canada.
Making Diwali memories
Some new traditions happened naturally – like moving the lights and decorations indoors to cater for typical Canadian weather. Others, like knocking on (near!) strangers’ doors to offer them Diwali gifts – those took some work.
One constant tradition is a big Diwali party. Having friends and family over for a feast is no easy task but with a little bit of help, it can be done.
Desi celebration Canada-style
Hosting a Diwali celebration can mean cooking for an army. So I use every shortcut I can find to offer a delicious spread but also hang on to my sanity as much as possible.
Here are some tips to help you throw a desi Diwali bash in Canada that will create the taste of home without blowing your budget.
My family and I make regular trips to India, but even then, there’s only so much we can bring in our suitcases. Fortunately, I’ve found desi decor here that looks and feels authentic. Like this beaten metal plate and vases that showcase Diwali lights. I found both at my local Real Canadian Superstore. At the same time, I also found these great floating tea lights!
Music is an inherent part of the desi culture. Bollywood music and even the beat of a good bhangra can add a festive air to the most sombre occasions. This is a get-up and dance Diwali bash, and music transports us to the gallis of New Delhi. Search for either Shah Rukh Khan or Bollywood music and set up a playlist. Turn the volume down so that the music forms a backdrop, and you’re good to go.
No desi party is complete without a lavish spread. I remember the Diwali parties my mom throws in India. She prepares each dish with great care and everything is blow-your-mind delicious. I’ve found a different (and dare I say easier) way to do this. With the help of my local grocery store, I can put together dishes that taste authentic and delicious at the same time.
Here is a sample smorgasbord with mostly desi goodies sourced from the Real Canadian Superstore.
Starting with mango juice with crushed ice and mint leaves. Delicious as a starter or a welcome beverage, and perhaps even better with vodka!
Miniature naans with a butter chicken gravy dip. Easy to serve and snack on. It’s all in the gravy anyway!
Spicy, chickpea flour coated peanuts served in a shot glass for easy sampling.
I’m really glad to be able to pick up all these authentic ingredients to celebrate Diwali at my local Real Canadian Superstore, all at low prices!
Traditions – old & new
Fun Fact: Did you know that on the day of Diwali, families refrain from eating meat and drinking alcohol? But in the run-up to the big day, all bets are off. Late night parties usually involve cocktails and Teen Patti (a card game where only 3 cards are dealt). Winning money during this time is considered a good sign for prosperity in the New Year.
Over the years my hubby and I have moved many homes, in new cities and countries. The change from India to Canada and places in between has been an adventure. With kids on the scene, traditions and roots have become even more important. Taking the time to celebrate traditional Indian customs and welcome friends, old and new, in our desi celebrations just feels right.
Disclaimer: My post has been compensated by Real Canadian Superstore. The opinion and narrative as always is honest and all mine.