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All about Diwali — the festival of lights!

 

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Are the colder temperatures and longer nights of the fall season making you feel gloomy?
Well, fortunately this October brings the perfect way to brighten up autumn.
It's Diwali, the festival of lights!


Find out more about India’s biggest and brightest holiday.


What is Diwali?

Diwali dancers

Photo by rubergarciaphotography licensed CC BY 2.0

Diwali (say “de-VAH-lee”) is a holiday celebrated around the world that got its start in India.

It’s a harvest festival, but it's also an important religious celebration for Hindus, Jains and Sikhs.

Even people who don’t belong to those three religions celebrate Diwali in India and other places in south Asia. It’s like Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve combined!


A festival of lights

Diwali is called the festival of lights! Rows of lamps are lit inside and outside homes and buildings for the holiday. Imagine how bright that must be!

These lamps are called deepavali (say “deep-a-vallee”), which is where we get the word Diwali.

The lights line the street and even are floated down rivers on little boats.

Nowadays the traditional small lamps are joined by electric light displays and LEDs.

All these lights represent the triumph of light over dark and the power of good over evil.

In the Hindu religion it’s also a time to honour the gods and goddesses, especially the goddess Lakshmi, who is believed to step inside your home if it is clean (wait, does that mean I should tidy my room?).


When is it?

brightly lit lanterns

Colourful lanterns for Diwali celebrations. (Image by Pashminu Mansukhani from Pixabay)

Diwali is always in October or November.

This year it’s starting on Thursday, November 12th and goes for five days.

The main celebrations happen on the darkest night of the festival — this year that's on Saturday, November 14th.


The five days of Diwali

Traditionally, each day of Diwali has a different focus.

  • The first day is usually a shopping day, especially for gold or silver.
  • The second day is used to decorate the home.
  • The third day is the main day of the festival with fireworks at night and a feast with family and friends.
  • On the fourth day spouses exchange gifts.
  • On the fifth day brothers and sisters spend time together.

Diwali around the world

Young girl in Diwali parade

Photo by Amanda Richards licensed CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Millions of people around the world celebrate Diwali.

It’s an official holiday in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Trinidad and Tobago, Myanmar and Fiji — just to name a few.

In places like Melbourne, Australia and Leicester, England, there are traditionally fireworks and street festivals attended by tens of thousands of people! This year the celebrations will be a little different so that people can still participate but also social distance.

India

In India, families will clean their homes and buy new clothes.

Businesses settle up their accounts and get their finances in order for the new year.

During the festival, complicated designs called rangoli (say “rang-o-lee”) are made on floors or the ground using coloured rice or powder to bring good luck.

Families also visit each other bringing gifts and sweets. This year they may not visit each other physically, but might do it virtually so they can social distance.

Canada

Here in Canada, there are traditionally celebrations across the country, with Indian music and dancing. These may be virtual this year so everyone can celebrate from their own home.

It’s a great time to make your own rangoli art or just eat delicious food!