Have you heard of Diwali? It’s the South Asian Festival of Lights and is traditionally celebrated by Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs all over the world. Multiple religions celebrate this holiday, and in its simplest form, it represents the victory of light over dark, good over evil, hope over despair, and knowledge over ignorance. In India, it’s often celebrated over five days, and each day has traditional activities, prayers, and celebrations. Celebrating Diwali as a multicultural family requires some creativity, blending our Diwali celebrations with our Happy Harvest celebrations.
Celebrating Diwali as a Multicultural Family
Diwali is celebrated in the Hindu month of Kartika, which is usually between mid-October and mid-November every year. Because the Hindu calendar follows a lunar cycle (like many other religions), the exact date changes annually. Traditionally, Diwali was celebrated after the last harvest of year. People who celebrate Diwali prepare their homes to welcome Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity.
It is believed that Lakshmi will only enter homes that are bright, so diyas (clay lamps) are central to this holiday. Fireworks, sparklers, lanterns, and strings of light are also used to decorate homes and welcome goddess Lakshmi. Another way to welcome goddess Lakshmi is with rangoli. These are beautiful designs and patterns traditionally made with colored powder or sand, and are thought to bring good luck to the home. These days, rangoli can be ordered online, and are also made with chalk, crayons on paper, or any other craft materials you have. Our family chose to draw some rangoli on our front porch with chalk! You can search “rangoli” to get some ideas, but any symmetrical, mandala-like design will work. The more color, the better! Beti still has a lot to learn, but had fun creating her less-than-traditional design.
Families also clean their home as they prepare to share gifts with friends and family. Everyone is expected to wear their finest clothes, light the diyas, and perform puja (prayer). Friends and family also share a feast of delicious foods and light off fireworks together.
Our multicultural family celebrates our favorite traditions – we aren’t Hindu, so we don’t celebrate religiously. Much like we celebrate Christmas, we take part in the traditions that we enjoy the most. For me, that means deep cleaning the house, top to bottom – nobody else in my family enjoys that! My husband’s favorite part is the delicious meals. He loves butter chicken, samosas, and partha (layered flat bread), which are our go-to celebratory foods. My daughter, Beti, loves dressing up in her fancy clothes, eating lots of mithai (sweets), and playing with sparklers and fireworks!
We chose to blend our Diwali celebrations with our Happy Harvest celebrations. Many cultures celebrate the end of the harvest season (like Diwali), so we added our diyas and mithai (sweets) to our Thankfulness Plate, which we use for American Thanksgiving. We like to share baked goods with friends and family, and share it on a plate that reads, “Give thanks with a grateful heart.” Our plate has mithai on it called barfi, which has the consistency of fudge. The different flavors and colors here are green pista (pistacho), pink gulab (rose), yellow amba (mango) orange kesar (saffron) and white malai (sweet cream). There are dried fruits and nuts mixed in on top for some extra deliciousness! We also included diyas on our kitchen tabletop display, which includes our favorite Thanksgiving prayer, “Bless the food before us, the family beside us, and the love between us.” Blending all of our families’ traditions together feels authentically and traditionally us!
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We also love to read about other cultures and holidays, including Diwali. If you’re looking to learn more about Diwali, there are so many great books to choose from. These are some of my favorites:
Baby’s First Diwali, part of Baby’s First Holidays Series
Children’s Picture Books
There are a lot of great books about Indian culture in this series! Definitely check them out!
Shubh Diwali! by Chitra Soundar and illustrated by Charlene Chua
Religious Books for Children
Do you know anyone who celebrates Diwali? Will you take part in the Festival of Light?? It’s a fun celebration for all!
For more children’s book recommendations featuring strong Black and brown characters, check me out at Beti Books! I love sharing media that represents our multicultural family, and I know your family will enjoy it, too.
How does your family go about celebrating Diwali as a multicultural family?by