Celebrating Diwali, the festival of lights, is a special time for millions of people around the world. Houses are decorated with oil lamps, candles, and strings of lights. Families feast and share gifts. This festival runs over a number of days and culminates in a night of fireworks. This used to be my favorite part of the festival because as a child I wasn’t allowed to play with fire, but come Diwali all bets were off!
The Meaning of Diwali
The festival is celebrated by more than a billion people around the world. Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists come together to celebrate this festival for different reasons and do so in a hundred different ways. The main theme running through this five-day celebration is the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance. The evening of the final day coincides with a dark no-moon night and is usually on a day between mid-October to mid-November. This year it falls on October 30.
In the first phase of Diwali celebrations, people clean and decorate their homes and offices. Decorative patterns are drawn on the ground with colored rice flour, sand, and flower petals. These designs are Rangoli and are made to welcome the Hindu Goddess Lakshmi with open arms. On the the final Diwali night everyone dresses in their finest clothes and lights up their homes to help the Goddess of Wealth (yes, she is!) find her way to them. In fact on this day people don’t turn off their lights at all in case the Goddess misses their homes.
I grew up in India and moved homes a number of times around the country with my parents. As a result my mom adopted traditions from different regions and incorporated them into our family’s celebration. Because of that our festival usually started on the third day. Our lights were a combination of string, candles, and brass and terracotta diyas inside and outside our home.
Over the next couple of days we would visit neighbors and friends with decorated trays of homemade sweets. Trays and gifts would be exchanged with much hugging and choruses of “Happy Diwali!” There would also be the occasional round of teen patti, or gambling with cards and money. Diwali is the biggest and most fun celebration for Hindus around the world, and this is one of the reasons why!
Finally on the last day of Diwali everybody in the neighborhood would set off fireworks. Once my brother and I were done with our fireworks we would hang out with others on rooftops to watch the world light up the dark Diwali night.
Diwali in Canada
Since my hubby and I moved to Canada, celebrating Diwali and other festivals we enjoyed during our childhood in India have taken on a different hue. Over the years we’ve made our own traditions especially around Diwali in Canada. Entertaining with friends, watching Indian movies, and playing Bollywood music all add to that feeling of celebration far away from India. I usually make traditional Indian sweets, and we decorate our home with lights and color. All of this is especially easy if Diwali falls on a weekend like this year. Making new traditions and celebrating is so much easier when it’s convenient as well.
This year Diwali falls right before Halloween. Since my family has adopted Halloween with a fervor, I am not sure what form our celebration will take. I know I have to give the timing some consideration as I plan the festival season. Perhaps I can convince my kids to go trick-or-treating in their Indian finery. Somehow I don’t think it’s going to be that easy. It never is.
This post is part of the annual Diwali for Kids blog hop from Multicultural Kid Blogs! See the posts below for great ideas on celebrating Diwali with children. You can find even more ideas from last year’s series and on our Diwali Pinterest board:
Weaving Ideas: Paper Plate Rangoli Idea for Kids
ArtsyCraftsyMom: Accordion Fold Paper Diya Craft
Maple and Marigold: Rustic Indian Peda with Roasted Pistachios
Creative World of Varya: Diwali Inspired Ideas for Kids
Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes: Rangoli with Glass Marbles
My Little Moppet: 20 Tips to Organize a Diwali Party for Kids
All Done Monkey: Diwali Books for Kids
Growing Up Gupta: 7 Amazing Multicultural Diwali Gift Ideas
Kidzlens: DIY Bandanwar
The Educators’ Spin On It: Making Flower Rangoli with Kids