The word Diwali is made up of 2 words: ‘Diya’ meaning ‘Lamp’ and ‘ali’ meaning ‘rows.’ We decorate our houses with rows of lamps to celebrate the Victory of Good over Evil and Light over Darkness.
Diwali is one of India’s largest festivals and is celebrated by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs, which makes up roughly 14% of the world’s population!
It is an official holiday in Fiji, Guyana, India, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. In 2009, President Obama was the first President to celebrate Diwali in the White House. President Trump has continued the tradition too! At last count, 27 school districts in New Jersey give holiday on Diwali. Diwali at Times Square in New York City is the world’s largest such celebration outside of India.
Diwali is many festivals rolled into one!
- Like Christmas: We decorate and light up streets, houses. Everyone gets a gift.
- Like the 4th of July: We light fireworks.
- Like Thanksgiving: We eat specially cooked meals and share it with friends and neighbors.
- Like Black Friday sales: 35% of yearly sales in India happen during Diwali!
Let me explain…Diwali is a 5-day celebration.
Day 1: is called DHANTERAS (Dhan means Wealth).
- We clean and decorate our house. We buy something for the family, especially gold (Black Friday Sale of India!) and offer it to Goddess of Wealth, Laxmi, and thank her.
Day 2: CHOTI DIWALI or NARAK CHATURDASHI.
- On this day, Narak asur, the evil demon, was killed by Lord Krishna, and so it is a Victory of Good over Evil. Choti means small; it is like a mini celebration before the Big Day.
Day 3: DIWALI.
- Goddess Laxmi, Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity, comes to planet earth on Diwali. We place lamps on our door entrances and windows to invite her in. Interestingly, Hinduism is perhaps the only major religion where God is female also! It is a fun-filled day. We wear new clothes in the evening. The family recognizes ladies and our mothers who work hard all year. They are called Laxmi, a symbol of good fortune of the family. After offering prayers and gratitude, we celebrate by lighting fireworks and having a party.
Day 4: ANNAKOOT/GOVARDHAN (Annakoot means mountain of food).
- Some parts of India celebrate it as New Year. Business owners worship their accounts book on this day. In other parts, it is celebrated in honor of Lord Krishna, who lifted a mountain to give shelter to villagers.
Day 5: BHAI DOOJ. (Bhai means brother).
- We celebrate the lifelong bond between a Brother and Sister. Sisters pray for the long life and well-being of their brothers. Brothers will often travel to meet their sisters.
This year Diwali is on 14th Nov 2020.
And that, my friends, is a short recap of Diwali…of the boundless memories of fun and blessings that we look forward to every year!
I hope that as we all learn about diversity, different cultures, their celebrations through the DEI Council of Baker College, we realize we all have so much in common! Our reasons might be diverse, but we all celebrate, with our friends and family, with good food and gratitude and hope for the victory of light over darkness. Knowledge is Power!
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