This week, we're celebrating Diwali aka the Festival of Lights 🪔
Not familiar? Let us catch you up.
Diwali, also spelled Divali, is one of the most celebrated holidays in Hindu culture. The name comes from the Sanskrit term 'dipavali', which translates to 'row of lights'.
The celebration lasts for five days and usually lands somewhere between late October and November. (If you want to get technical, it starts on the 13th day of the dark half of the lunar month, called Ashvina, and lasts until the second day of the light half, called Karttika). This year, the third day of Diwali (which falls on the new moon 🌑 ) will be celebrated on November 14!
So why is Diwali celebrated?
Like many Hindu festivals, there isn’t just one reason to celebrate the five-day holiday. Many historians claim it’s impossible to say which reason came first, or how long ago Diwali started.
Many of the stories connected to Diwali are about the triumph of good over evil. In northern India, a common tale associated with Diwali centers around King Rama, one of the incarnations of the god Vishnu. When an evil king in Sri Lanka captures King Rama’s wife, Sita, he builds an army of monkeys to rescue her.
The monkeys are said to have built a bridge from India to Sri Lanka and upon invading Sri Lanka, they free Sita and kill the evil king. As Rama and Sita return to the north, millions of lights are spread out across the city Ayodhya to light their way and welcome them back home. Lighting lamps have long been one of the ways that Hindus celebrate Diwali.
How is Diwali celebrated?
Well, there's a reason it's been nicknamed the Festival of Lights. In honor of the origin story, many people celebrate by lighting fireworks, oil lanterns, and candles. 💥 Literally LIT.💥
It is generally a time for visiting, exchanging gifts, cleaning and decorating houses, feasting, setting off fireworks displays, and wearing new clothes. Basically, a great reason to go all out — in India and in Hindu households around the world, they often do.
Celebrating Diwali is not exclusive to Indian and Hindu people; here are some respectful ways that you can host your own Diwali celebration 🎉
- Light a candle🕯 This is a simple, respectful, and beautiful way to join in on the celebration (we could all use another holiday, especially one about light and goodness). If it feels right saying a small prayer at the time of lighting the candle is a lovely gesture.
- Eat well; have something sweet 🍯 Sweets are a small gesture of greeting friends, family, and goodness to your life. And, what's a holiday without dessert?
- Gather with your loved ones ❤️ If not in person, gather via zoom and tell them you appreciate them.
- Turn to nature 🌿 Look for reminders of the contrast between light and dark, birth and death, new moon, and full moon.