Festival of Lights

One small consolation for missing out on Halloween this year is that we did get to celebrate Diwali. Diwali is the new year on the Indian calendar and in India, it’s a very big deal. In terms of the food and the decorating and the gifts and the general merry-making, it’s akin to Christmas over here. The date is set by the moon cycles, but it usually falls around the end of October or very early in November.

In India, people decorate the threshold of their houses with powdered chalk, making intricate and colourful designs called kolem:

Photo from mckaysavage flickr stream.

They also decorate their houses with lights (Diwali means “festival of light”). Traditionally small oil lamps (diyas) or candles are used, but lately electric lights are also pretty common:


Gifts are exchanged (new clothes are traditional, but these days anything goes), fancy food is eaten, family is visited, and there are always, always, fireworks:


When Sir Monkeypants and I were first married, we used to have a small Diwali celebration at our house. We’d light a couple dozen candles and we’d make a special dinner. After the kids were born, though, I found it harder to work into our routine. Having a lot of candles throughout the house did not seem like a good idea, and since it’s not a holiday here, planning and hosting a special dinner on a weeknight was too much. For the past few years we’ve exchanged phone calls with Sir Monkeypants’ sister and that’s about it.

This year, though, Diwali happened to fall on the weekend that we were visiting Sir Monkeypants’ family in Mississauga. His sister and her family came over and it was a nice, quiet evening. In the afternoon we visited the mandir, a gorgeous temple that was bustling with people as everyone prepared for the big Diwali party that night. Back at home, we lit candles and had a nice dinner and then the kids played with sparklers outside.

It was so nice to finally make it into a real family event. Both Sir Monkeypants and I loved the whole day and we’d really like to turn the Diwali trip into an annual family tradition. Happy New Year, everyone!

7 thoughts on “Festival of Lights

  1. Namaste! One of my favorite memories of being in India is all the festivals. My absolute favorite is Ganapati, and I have a very special place in my heart for Ganesh. Holy was lots of fun too. But Diwali was wonderful, because we got to celebrate it with lots of families, and it really is one of their biggest. It was fun to be able to ring in the new year with them.

    Happy New Year to you and your fam.

  2. OH that sounds like such a wonderful time.

    India Express down here has a Diwali “festival” night … we missed it this year. So sad.

  3. I worked at a school where many of the students celebrated Diwali so I was able to learn a lot about the celebration. It was fascinating. So glad you were able to enjoy it with your family!

  4. thank you so much for sharing this with us! i found it so interesting as i know very little about this holiday. so the picture at the top is chalk? it’s a beautiful celebration! are there traditional foods served?

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