As Diwali approaches this year (23rd October mamas, put it in the diary), I feel that finally my children are getting to an age where I can teach them what this festival means. Since my mother and father were both born in India, although I’ve spent almost all of my life elsewhere, it is something that I do like to mark in my own way and I am sure I am not alone. To be honest, the festival carries an important message, which is applicable to every culture, religion and belief, so it isn’t a surprise that many like to celebrate it. So for those who aren’t in the know… We thought you might like a little background on the meaning of Diwali to teach your darling ones, as well as some ideas on how you can indeed celebrate or mark this occasion.
Diwali, otherwise known as the Festival of Lights, is an ancient Hindu festival that signifies the victory of good over evil. It is also celebrated by Sikhs and Jains. The festival is generally five days long and Diwali night is supposedly the darkest night and marks the end of the Indian calendar year. Day one is called Dhanteras, day two is Choti Diwali, day three is Lakshmi Puja on Diwali, Day four is Padwa & Govardhan Puja and the last day is Bhai Duj. To prepare for the revelries, people clean their homes from top to bottom on Dhanteras, and then decorate them with bright colours on Choti Diwali. It is thought they do this to ensure they can proudly welcome Goddess Lakshmi into their homes (the Hindu Goddess of wealth, love, prosperity and good fortune). So come on mamas, do a little spring clean and then set about decorating your house. You can buy bright lanterns or make origami ones. Think gorgeous tones of vibrant hues, and start getting creative!
The word “Diwali” actually comes from the Sanskrit word Dīpãvali meaning “row of lights”. It is celebrated by different religions following differing stories, however all of them do unite with the same spiritual ending, that light has been victorious over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil and hope over despair. One of the most beautiful ways that you can celebrate Diwali, is by bringing light into your home. You will see many Indian families light up their houses with fairy lights aplenty and Diyas, which are small clay lamps fueled with oil, line the insides of their houses to mark this triumph. The lamps also signify the lighting of the path so that Goddess Lakshmi can find her way to people’s houses and fill their homes with wealth and happiness. If you want something subtler than masses of twinkly stars around your house, then why not bring in some gorgeous candles to enjoy…
Sassy Mama suggests:
Filled mercury glass candles at Pottery Barn
The White Company’s tea light tray
Jo Malone’s trio candle set
Diptyque – Baies candle
Zara’s gorgeous little tea lights.
Women and children decorate entrances with Rangoli, which are creative colourful floor designs. If this is not possible (we all know we have landlord restrictions), then I highly recommend these beautiful 100% Indian Cotton Dhurries by From Jaipur With Love (available at littlemajlis.com). The star of India motif is just divine. What a gorgeous entrance piece!
So after all this preparation during the first 2 days comes the main day when the important ritual, The Lakshmi Puja is performed, involving meditation, a recital and usually an offering of rice and flowers. This, together with some celebratory fireworks, a festive feast and family games, completes a rather memorable day.
Day 4 marks the first day of the New Year and friends and relatives usually visit to offer their best wishes for the season. Finally day 5 rounds off the Diwali festival with families affirming sibling love. Many people give gifts to their family members, however big or small (from jewellery to kitchen utensils), and spend time with them to read stories of good defeating evil.
In terms of food throughout the five days, whilst there are definitely some firm favourites amongst the savoury dishes, it is worth mentioning that the most popular food cooked is sweets. Families make traditional delicacies in the dozens for everyone to enjoy. The most popular sweet I can remember is the Gulab Jamun, which is a sticky sweet deep fried dumpling infused with rose water. I was also a big fan of Kaju Barfi, made principally of condensed milk and sugar (but with other additions depending on taste) and which look so beautiful in their diamond shapes, with (edible) silver leaf on top. Other favourites include Kesar Peda (an indian milk fudge), Jaleebi (deep fried chickpea flour with sugar syrup), and Laddus (coconut are my favourite!). Don’t expect to lose any pounds though mamas; they are quite calorific, but luckily usually one of each are enough to tickle those taste buds.
Diwali is a beautiful celebration with bright colours, lights, delicious food and lots of family time. We will certainly be taking the time to enjoy the festival. Happy Diwali everyone! Be careful to remember that the tradition says that whatever you do on the first day of the Indian New Year you will spend the next 12 months doing so maybe family time is a better plan than eating tons of sweets!!