Every year, millions of people celebrate Diwali - a five-day festival of lights. In India, the streets are painted with spectacular decorations, fireworks highlight the skies, and elaborate light displays illuminate homes and temples across the country. We may be in the midst of a world pandemic that's created limitations in how we can celebrate Diwali this year, but there are many ways you can celebrate safely while keeping the festive spirit alive.
What Is Diwali?
Diwali is India's biggest holiday of the year, and an important date in the Hindu and Sikh calendar. People spruce up their homes, decorating it with lots of lights and flowers, buy new clothing and exchange gifts - kind of like Christmas. Every region in India has its own way to celebrate, however the underlying message of Diwali is the same - the triumph of good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and the victory of light over darkness. On the religious front, Hindus pray to Lakshmi - the goddess of wealth and prosperity, and Ganesh - the god of good fortune and wisdom. Lots of clay lamps are then lit and placed all around the home, in every room, on every countertop, and every nook in the house, that burn throughout the entire night. Normally, people celebrate with fireworks and sparklers, sweets are exchanged, and families gather together over an elaborate feast.
Celebrating Diwali Safely
Like so many celebrations this year, partaking in Diwali will also require extra creativity. Here are some ways you can celebrate Diwali, safely at home.
Make Lots Of Sweet Treats
Diwali is nothing without sweet treats. Get the kids in the kitchen and make all of your favorite desserts. For a healthy option, try these healthy fruit and nut rolls, or if you're feeling naughty, try this rich saffron and cardamom almond milk dessert or these scrumptious coconut laddoos. Decorate the sweet treats with green pistachios, pink roses or edible silver foil for an extra special touch.
Cook Up A Feast
Diwali is all about sharing food with loved ones. Cook up your favorite Indian dishes and enjoy an intimate dinner with the family. Make dal makhani or vegetarian manchurian for a great starter, and of course, have lots of chai! Decorate the dining space and table with Indian inspired placemats and napkins, as well as candles - the essence of Diwali.
Dress Your Home In Flowers
Declutter, donate, rearrange and spruce your living area with colorful decorations. The easiest way to do this is with flowers. Get creative with arrangements taking inspiration from India. Cut the flower heads and sew them together to make garlands and place them around the house, or place the flower heads in pots or dishes with a little water. You can also tear off petals and place them in a vessel with candles in the middle.
Create Rangoli Inspired Patterns
Rangoli is a form of art in which patterns are created on the ground using colorful materials such as dyed sand, rice, and quartz powder. Other substitutes are chalk, lentils, couscous or flower petals. Traditionally, this is thought to bring good luck and is a great activity to exercise your creativity, as well as being entertaining for kids. To make a kid-friendly rangoli patch, divide some raw rice or couscous in separate bowls, mix a drop or two of liquid food coloring to a tablespoon of water, then add to the rice, coating them well in the color. Lay them flat on some paper towels to fully dry before creating the rangoli patterns.
There's no time like festivals to bond with the family, especially this year. Get close to your family through the art of crafts by making Diwali greeting cards, paper or electronic form. Apps like Canva and Over are great to create digital e-cards. Other ideas are paper flower garlands, pom pom wall hangings, Diwali inspired wreaths, and faux fireworks for the kids using toilet rolls and foil paper.
Decorate & Light Clay Lamp Candles
When the sun sets, homes are lit up with hundreds of candles (diyas) on Diwali. While you can use regular tea-lights and candles, traditionally, clay lamp candles are used. These are made from earthen clay, and the candle itself is made from cotton wicks that are soaked in ghee (clarified butter). You can make the diya yourself using clay, then once baked, a fun activity is decorating them. They can be painted colorfully, embellished with jewels, carved with designs before baking, enclosed within faux or real flower wreaths, or left in their natural state. My (almost) three year old nephew made the diyas below. For more inspiration, check out Pinterest.
Although this year's Diwali festivities will be more low key than usual, dressing up is still fun. Whether you chose to wear traditional-wear or be creative with fusion styles, dressing up on Diwali will allow you to show your personal style and get into the festive mood. I experimented blending traditional wear with a jumpsuit on Karwachauth and loved feeling like I was dressed up, without going all the way. Dress up your regular outfit with an embellished scarf or shawl (dupatta) and wear jewelry for an understated Diwali look.
However you celebrate Diwali this year, I wish you and your family a Happy Diwali!