Celebrated between mid-October and mid-November, Diwali, also known as Deepavali and Divali, is the celebrations of lights. This year, Diwali was celebrated on November 12-16. Diwali is a five-day festival, the height of which is celebrated on the third day coinciding with the darkest night of the lunar month. Diwali symbolizes the spiritual "victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance." The festival is celebrated by millions of Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Newar Buddhists around the world. The main day of the festival of Diwali - the day of Lakshmi Pujan - is an official holiday in Fiji, Guyana, India, Malaysia (except Sarawak), Mauritius, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. The interfaith celebrations and global recognition of this celebration truly make Diwali a special holiday.
In preparation for Diwali, celebrants clean and decorate their homes and workplaces with diyas (oil lamps) and rangolis (patterns created on the floor or the ground using materials such as colored rice, sand, quartz powder or flower petals). During Diwali, celebrants attend community parades and events, send greeting cards to relatives and loved ones, wear their best clothes, illuminate the interior and exterior of their offices and homes with diyas and rangoli, light fireworks, say prayers, give offerings, and perform puja (worship ceremonies for Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity and wealth). An important theme of Diwali is people celebrating, preparing and cooking lots of sweets and savory snacks for the festival, and distributing them among neighbors, family and friends.
Dhanteras marks the beginning of Diwali. It is a symbol of annual renewal, cleansing and an auspicious beginning for the next year. On Dhanteras, many people clean their homes and shop for gold or kitchen utensils to help bring good fortune. Naraka Chaturdashi, also known as Chhoti Diwali, marks the second day of festivities. On Naraka Chaturdashi, many people decorate their homes with clay lamps and create design patterns called rangoli on the floor using colored powders or sand. Lakshmi Pujan marks the third day of festivities, which is also the height of the festival. On this day, the youngest family members usually visit their grandparents and other senior members of the community. Families gather together for Lakshmi puja, a prayer to Goddess Lakshmi, which is then followed by feasts and firework festivities. The fourth day of the festival marks the start of a new luni-solar year. The fourth day has many regional names, including Annakut Padwa, Goverdhan puja, Bali Pratipada, Bali Padyami, and Kartik Shukla Pratipada. On this day, the bonds of marriage and family are celebrated, and friends and relatives usually visit with gifts and best wishes for the season. Bhai Duj, also called Bhau Beej, Bhai Tilak and Bhai Phonta, marks the fifth and final day of the festival. On this day, the bond between brothers and sisters is celebrated. It is common for female family members to say prayers for the well-being of their brothers and take part in a ritual of feeding their brothers with their hands and receiving gifts.
Diwali is also celebrated as a community. Many community groups and associations organize parades, dances and musical performances. Small business owners give gifts or special bonus payments to their employees between Dhanteras and Lakshmi Pujan. Shops usually don’t open or close early on Lakshmi Pujan to allow employees to enjoy more time with their family and loved ones.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are celebrating Diwali differently this year. One celebrant shared in an interview with CNN Travel that in lieu of meeting and celebrating together, his family have been sharing hopeful, thoughtful messages via social media group chats. He said that their conversations have revolved around how the true essence of Diwali is finding positivity in the moment, and being grateful for health and happiness. Large-scale celebrations aren't necessary; what's important is cherishing time spent with those close to you. For those celebrating Diwali, social media and video calls have been vital way of allowing people to connect with their loved ones safely. (Harris, 2020)
Diwali is a wonderful holiday that celebrates and gives thanks for food, family, friends, community, and new beginnings. In 2021, Diwali will be celebrated on November 2–6. You can wish celebrants a happy festival with “Shubh Diwali”, which means “Happy Diwali” in Hindi. “Let’s celebrate the festival in the true sense by spreading joy and light up the world of others. Have a happy, safe, and blessed Diwali!” (Jagran English, 2020)
Written by: Emily Kawasaki
- “Diwali.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, January 28, 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diwali.
- “Happy Diwali 2020: Wishes, Messages, Greetings, Quotes, SMS, WhatsApp and Facebook Status to Share on ‘Deepavali.’” Jagran English, November 13, 2020. https://english.jagran.com/lifestyle/happy-diwali-2020-wishes-messages-quotes-greetings-sms-whatsapp-and-facebook-status-to-share-on-deepavali-10019794#:~:text=May%20the%20divine%20light%20of,Wishing%20you%20a%20happy%20Diwali.
- Harris, Aaliyah. “How Diwali Is Being Celebrated across the World during Covid-19.” CNN Travel, November 13, 2020. https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/diwali-2020-covid-celebrations/index.html.
- “National Geographic Kids.” National Geographic Kids, 2018. https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/explore/diwali/.
- “Rangoli.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia Foundation, February 14, 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rangoli.
- “What Is Diwali?” CBBC Newsround. BBC, October 21, 2020. https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/15451833.