The festival of Diwali is the single-biggest celebration for more than a billion and a half people living around the world. I grew up in India where celebrating Diwali meant shopping for new clothes, hanging out with cousins, feasting every day and of course setting off fireworks. My mom would decorate trays of homemade mithai – sweets – and my brother and I would go around the neighbourhood to deliver. My favourite part though was dressing up in a lehenga (long Indian skirt) and going up and down the stairs of the apartment building carrying beautiful trays, knocking on doors, and wishing everyone, “Happy Diwali.” This is still one of my favourite parts of Diwali, except that the neighbourhood has moved to Toronto.
Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Jain people from India, Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Fiji all celebrate this shiny Festival of Light. People of Indian heritage living everywhere else also gather together with their family and friends to celebrate Diwali. That’s us! Living away from India has brought a new perspective on the festivals we celebrated as a child.
Celebrating Diwali over 5 days
India is not a homogeneous country. The cuisine, attire, weather and of course traditions vary from region to region. That means there are different stories around the world of the historical significance behind Diwali, but the spirit of this 5 day festival remains the same. Victory of good over evil, and a time of introspection and new beginnings.
The first day of celebrations start with cleaning the house and buying an indulgent metal item for the home. Lavish gold or silver if you can afford it. That’s why the prices of gold skyrocket around the world at this time.
The second day is spent cooking and making beautiful trays to exchange with friends and family. This is also the day to decorate the home with Rangoli – folk art made on the ground with coloured sand, rice flour or flower petals.
The third day is the day of Diwali and it occurs on a dark no-moon night. As a child I remember decorating our home with strings of lights and getting ready for the evening festivities. After a family prayer to the Hindu Goddess Lakshmi – the Goddess of Wealth, it’s time to light up the dark night. Candles, diyas (terracotta lamps), and finally firecrackers. This is also the day to leave the lights on all night. Windows are left open and the lit lamps are an invitation to welcome Goddess Lakshmi into your home.
Day 4 of the Diwali festival is when a lot of communities around India ring in the Hindu New Year. Businesses stay closed as they pray for a prosperous and successful new year. As a way of showing respect people pray to their tools of business. Taxi drivers to their cabs, construction workers to their tool kit and bloggers to their computers.
The last day of the Diwali season is the festival that symbolizes a brother and sister’s relationship as they wish each other a long and healthy life.
Since my hubby and I moved away from India we’ve adapted our lifestyle a fair bit to our new home. Over the years we’ve started new traditions and hung on to some old ones. I’m constantly trying to balance my soul between the maple and marigold! This year the festival is earlier than usual on October 30. That means it may not be as cold as it normally is, perhaps it may not even snow. I have my fingers crossed as I say this. On the other hand wearing a lehenga with winter boots may just be the start of a new tradition.
This year I’m delighted to be sharing the message of Diwali together along with other amazing South Asian bloggers and the children’s book publisher Bharat Babies. We would like to hear your stories of Diwali, and there is a prize to win.
-Share with us your favorite stories and memories of your Diwali celebrations and use the hashtag #MyDiwaliStory.
-Each week, Bharat Babies will select a winner at random to win a copy of “Let’s Celebrate Diwali” plus one other book from among Bharat Babies’ five illustrated works.
-Share your story on your Instagram or Facebook using one or more of the following hashtag for additional chances to win. Look out for weekly prizes. #BharatBabies #RunwaysandRattles #LoveLaughMirch #MyLittlePudding #MapleandMarigold #ModernDayBrownMom
-Also check out these other South Asian bloggers across the world and read what they have to say about Diwali.
#MyDiwaliStory is a campaign to help promote authentic, pluralistic stories surrounding the festival of Diwali. This campaign, a joint effort between South Asian bloggers from around the globe and children’s book publisher Bharat Babies, helps celebrate all that is Diwali around the world.