Celebrating Diwali in 2020
At Curlicue, we love the last few months of the year - while they are indeed our busiest and often leaves us in need of a good nap come January - all over the world people are celebrating family and love. But none are as colourful and wonderous, as Diwali.
This week, we're talking all things Diwali - why we celebrate, what we celebrate and how Diwali celebrations take place around the world. At its core, Diwali is about the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness - never has the world needed to celebrate these core beliefs more than in 2020. And, although the celebrations may look different this year, the Festival of Lights holds a special place in our hearts.
What is Diwali, and why is it celebrated?
Diwali is a five-day Hindu festival that takes place every year in India and around the world. Diwali is one of the most important celebrations in the Hindu religious and cultural calendar. While it is a Hindu festival, Diwali is celebrated by many people including Sikhs and Jains, and some Buddhists also celebrate the Festival of Lights.
Diwali festival is a five-day event that honours Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth. Lamps are lit and placed in the windows and doors of people's homes to help Goddess Lakshmi find her way to them. Diwali is also a time for people to come together with their loved ones, feast and celebrate the spiritual ideals of light over dark, and good over evil.
Why Diwali is important
Diwali has religious roots as well as cultural ones. Diwali celebrates spiritual and moral values, and those who celebrate it are said to be people who embody and endeavour to live to these values. At its core, the spirit of Diwali is in the belief that good will always triumph - don't we need a little more of that in 2020?
Light over darkness
Good over evil
The inner light of enlightenment over the darkness of an ignorant spirit.
Courage over cowardice
Justice over injustice
Right over wrong
Celebrating the power of knowledge and wisdom over ignorance.
Why is it called the Festival of Lights?
The festival of Diwali is magical and involves people hanging lamps (traditionally oil lamps) from their homes and having beautiful firework displays.
As we mentioned earlier, this stems partly from the celebration of Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth. The hanging lights are said to help guide her into your home to bless your family with good fortunes. But other stories are closely tied to the lights that are famous with this religious festival: namely, the story of Rama and Sita.
Lord Rama was exiled by his Father, the King Dasharatha, for 14 years after a promise his Father. The people of Rama's Kingdom, Ayodhya, were devastated when they discovered Rama's banishment and grieved for Rama, his wife, Sita and Rama's younger brother, Lakshaman who were both exiled with him.
While the three were banished, Sita was kidnapped by the demon King Ravana. This act led to a mighty war between Lord Rama and King Ravana that ultimately Rama wins. By the time Lord Rama defeats Ravana and wins back his love, Sita, their banishment and exile is completed.
To celebrate their return, the people of Ayodhya fill every window and door of their homes with lamps to guide the trios way home. Each year oil lamps are lit to commemorate this triumph of good over evil and the return of the trio.
When does Diwali take place?
Diwali often takes place in October or November every year. Candlelight and lamplight is a massive part of the celebration, so Diwali takes place during the darkest moon of the year.
The festival of Diwali takes place over five days, and each day holds its own special significance and celebration from the first day to the fifth. The longest night falls on the third day - Diwali, the principal celebration of the festival which this year falls on November 14:
Dhanteras is the first day and marks the beginning of the festival. People often buy new items on this day - traditionally gold and silver jewellery, new clothes or new utensils for feeding the family. Hindus believe that buying something new on this day, brings good luck and prosperity to their family.
Choti Diwali or Naraka Chaturdashi
Choti Diwali (or Little Diwali) is the day before the main festival; this day is the day of preparation when homes are decorated, and fireworks are purchased! It is a symbolic day in that it represents the day that Lord Krishna killed a demon - thus relieving the world of evil.
Traditionally on this day, people give up something that is holding them back and move towards a more active lifestyle.
The main day of Diwali falls on the third day - Hindus celebrate by lighting candles and lamps in their home and join together for great feasts. This main day is known as the day of the new moon as it falls on the darkest day of the month.
Padwa or Annkut
This day represents the new year for many beliefs, particularly across India. It marks the start of a new year day in Vikram Samvat - the Hindu Calendar.
Bhaj Duj or Day of Siblings
This day marks the end of the five days of festivities and celebrates the bond between siblings. Traditionally, siblings invite one another into their homes and have a feast of their favourite dishes and sweet treats.
What does Diwali mean?
The name Diwali comes from the Tamil word, deepāwali which means 'row or series of lights.'
How do people celebrate Diwali?
You may know Diwali for the incredible firework displays that light up the night sky for five nights during the UK's Autumn season, but fireworks are not the only way that Hindus mark the celebration of Diwali. Hindus celebrate Diwali in several ways - often differing by each day of the Diwali festival. Some of the ways people celebrate Diwali are:
Spring-cleaning the home
Wearing new clothes
Preparing celebratory meals
Decorating buildings with beautiful lights and lanterns.
Will Diwali happen in 2020?
Sadly, this year Diwali celebrations will look different in November 2020 with families across the world forced to be separated by the lockdown.
In London, a vast Diwali celebration usually takes place in Trafalgar Square and is generally attended by 30,000 people. Thanks to the pandemic, however, this has been cancelled. Instead, Virtual Diwali celebrations are taking place with free events throughout the entire five days of festivities.
Leicester is known for hosting some of the largest Diwali celebrations outside of India. Sadly this year many of the live events are cancelled. For the first time, Leicester is hosting the first Virtual Diwali Day. People are sending in video messages about what the celebration means to them which will then form a longer video on the Visit Leicester website.
A Diwali Day celebration programme will also be streaming on the Visit Leicester website and will feature lots of events and performances including story-telling, music and dances.
Edinburgh is holding a free Digital Diwali event this year to make up for the cancelled celebrations that usually take place on Princes Street Gardens. The event will run on November 15 and includes performances from artist Ajay Dixit, as well as dances, a ceilidh and virtual fireworks.
What gifts to give at Diwali
Sweet treats and goodies make a fantastic gift at Diwali. We really love these Diwali Lamp Biscuit Decorating Kits from Etsy which combine the tradition of sweet things and beautiful candlelight. Good fortune will certainly find you at home this year with these delicious and beautiful biscuits.
We love these Cardboard Diwali Lanterns also from Etsy, as not only are they gorgeous but as they're made of cardboard, they're recyclable. Welcome the Goddess Lakshmi into your home this main Diwali season in November and celebrate the Festival of Lights and the triumph of good.