Over a billion people worldwide celebrate Diwali, a five-day festival of light and joy symbolizing the triumph of good over evil and light over dark. Although the festival is filled with rich cultural significance, it's possible to celebrate Diwali in a secular and modern context. Make the most of your Diwali celebration by partaking in traditional elements with a modern twist.
Diwali: Five Days of Joy
Even though Diwali, known as the Festival of Lights, is primarily a Hindu festival, people of all faiths participate in Diwali festivities. Diwali begins sometime in October or November, because it follows the lunar calendar, which differs from the Gregorian calendar used in the West. Diwali is a festive occasion to celebrate life with family and friends while participating in delicious meals, family gatherings, and gestures of gratitude.
The start dates of Diwali don't fall over the same five-day period of the Western calendar each year.
Dhanteras is the first day of Diwali. On this day, people begin by cleaning and purifying their homes. Then, they worship Goddess Lakshmi for good fortune by purchasing jewelry and utensils in silver, copper, and brass. Families also purify and decorate their houses by leaving rows of lamps (diyas) by their entryways and on balconies.
- Host a get-together and incorporate candles, lanterns, and tea lights into your decor.
- Purify, declutter, and deep clean your house to remove impurities before welcoming family and friends.
- Shop for kitchen utensils or gold to help bring good fortune in the year to come.
On the second day of Diwali, people celebrate the victory of Lord Krishna over the wicked demon king Narakasura. They visit family and friends to exchange gifts and sweets, and will neatly decorate their floors with rangolis — an intricate art form, typically created on the floor using sand, flower petals, rice flour, lentils, and beans.
- Embrace the second day of Diwali by purifying your body and mind with an oil bath before sunrise.
- Purchase small gifts, such as mini dried fruit, boxes of chocolate, scented candles, or even jewelry to exchange with friends.
- Gather with family and friends to make rangolis or provide everyone with mandala coloring books as a fun alternative.
- If you're not able to gather in person, plan a virtual meetup or game night to foster the same sense of connection.
The third day is considered the main day of the Diwali celebration. Clay oil lamps, or diyas, are lit to worship the goddess Lakshmi. On this day, families dress up in brand new clothes to enjoy spectacular fireworks and an amazing feast, which includes main course dishes, savory snacks (such as samosas — triangle-shaped pastries filled with spiced potatoes and peas). They also enjoy lots of mithai (sweets), including laddoos (mini balls made with chickpea flour, oil, sugar, and nuts) and barfi (fudge squares made with condensed milk, sugar, and nuts).
- Invite family and friends to celebrate the third day of Diwali at your house and encourage them to dress to impress in bright, colorful clothes and jewelry. Bright outfits signify the light of Lakshmi.
- Treat your guests to a charcuterie board filled with traditional Diwali snacks and sweets, including samosas, laddoos, barfi, masala roasted cashews, batata vada, and other authentic Diwali snacks and sweets. You can serve refreshing lemonade (nimbu pani) or any other non-alcoholic drinks of your choice.
Keep the menu plant-based for an authentic and intentional celebration.
It is the day when Lord Krishna defeated Indra by lifting the huge Govardhan Mountain. On this fourth day, a big vegetarian feast is prepared for Puja and a "mountain" of delicacies is offered in gratitude. In some regions, people decorate cows for the festival by painting their horns and writing on their bodies.
- The fourth day of Diwali is an opportunity for individuals to engage in acts of charity, so consider volunteering at a local charity or organize a food drive.
- You don't necessarily need to arrange several dishes in the form of a mountain, but you can prepare some Diwali dishes to share with neighbors in the spirit of giving.
The last day of Diwali is all about celebrating the brother and sister bond. It's tradition for brothers to visit and bring gifts to their sisters, who honor them with rituals for good fortune and good health.
- Celebrate the last day of Diwali by spending quality time with your siblings.
- Consider inviting your brother or sister and relatives to play a card game, like Teen Patti, which is often played on Diwali nights and associated with family gatherings.
Celebrate Diwali With Friends and Family
Diwali falls in October or November, depending on the moon's position. It's a beautiful festival focused on gratitude, ritual, family, and the triumph of light over darkness. It's also the perfect excuse to gather and celebrate with the ones you love.