The festival of Diwali is celebrated around the world and friends and family get together over lights, fireworks and of course delicious food. The festival lasts 5 days and is usually between mid-October and mid-November. The day of 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 in luck and prosperity, and fireworks light up the night sky. All this colour and light is the reason why Diwali is also called the Festival of Light.
That’s the story behind Diwali the biggest celebration for more than a billion Hindus, Sikhs and Jains around the world. 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.
Recently I learnt Hanukkah is also called the Festival of Light by people of Jewish faith around the world. It is amazing how two such different observations from opposite corners of the world can have a similar essence and the same name.
Celebrating Diwali in Canada
I remember our first Diwali in Canada. It was a cold November and I figured out too late that the earthen lamps and candles that would normally decorate our house from the outside just wouldn’t stay lit in the damp Canadian wind.
Diwali is also a time of sharing when people decorate plates of Indian sweets – mithai – to gift to their family and friends. One of my favourite memories from my youth is going around the neighbourhood with my brother carrying trays of sweets. In Canada, those first few years we didn’t know many people, I’m not sure if we knew anyone else in our condo building!
Over the years, my hubby and I have worked hard to retain many of the traditions that we grew up with during our childhood in India. 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 lighting and decorations indoors to cater for typical Canadian weather. Others like knocking on (near!) stranger’s doors to offer them gifts on Diwali – those took some work.
One tradition that has stayed steadfast wherever we are, is a big Diwali party. Getting all your 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 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 carry in suitcases from the other side of the world. Fortunately, I’ve found decor here that looks and feels authentic. Like this beaten metal plate and vases that showcase Diwali lights. Both sourced from my local Real Canadian Superstore. I also found these great floating tealights!
Music is an inherent part of the fabric of Indian culture. Bollywood music and even the beat of a good bhangra can add a festive air to the most sombre of occasions. And 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 on the iPod or phone. Turn the volume down so that the music forms a backdrop, and you’re good to go.
No Indian party is complete without a table-groaning, belly-filling spread. I remember the Diwali parties my mom throws in India where each dish is prepared with great care and is blow-your-mind delicious. I’ve found a different (and dare I say it easier) way to do this. With the help of my local grocery store, I can put together dishes that taste authentic and delicious at that same time.
Here is a sample smorgasbord with goodies sourced from the Real Canadian Superstore.
Starting with this mango juice with crushed ice and mint leaves. Delicious as a starter or a welcome beverage, and perhaps even better with vodka!
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.
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 that I am able to pick up all of these authentic South Asian ingredients to celebrate Diwali, at my local Real Canadian Superstore® and all at low prices!
Over the years my hubby and I have moved homes, in new cities and countries. The change from India to Canada and places in between has been an adventure, and with kids on the scene traditions and roots have become even more important. Taking the time to celebrate festivals that we grew up with in India and include friends, old and new in our celebration just feels right.
Disclaimer: My post has been compensated by Real Canadian Superstore®. The opinion and narrative as always is honest and all mine.