Learning About Diwali: A Festival of Lights and Unity

Diwali is a cultural & social celebration that unites people from diverse communities & backgrounds

By Amanda Janke, publisher of Macaroni KID West Morris, N.J. November 6, 2023

As our local communities become more diverse, my children have begun to ask questions about other cultural customs and celebrations. I've been having fun learning more about them to educate my kids, and I thought you might enjoy reading about them as well! 

Diwali, also called Deepavali in some parts of India, is a popular multi-day Hindu festival celebrated with lights and fireworks. It is one of the most important Hindu holidays of the year and is a celebration of the classic triumph of good over evil.

Often referred to as the "Festival of Lights," it is a vibrant and joyous festival celebrated by millions worldwide, especially those of Indian origin. Diwali typically lasts for five days, and the dates change each year based on the Hindu lunar calendar. This year, Diwali will be celebrated beginning on November 12th.

Here are some key aspects of this special occasion:

  1. Lighting of Lamps (Diyas): The heart of Diwali lies in lighting oil lamps or diyas. This tradition symbolizes the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair. Homes are beautifully illuminated, creating a magical ambiance.
  2. Fireworks: Fireworks displays are a dazzling part of Diwali celebrations. Families and communities come together to enjoy colorful fireworks, adding a touch of splendor to the night sky.
  3. Rangoli: Artistic designs made from rice flour, colored powders, or flower petals adorn the entrances of homes. These intricate rangolis welcome guests and signify creativity and beauty.
  4. Prayer and Worship: Many Hindus offer prayers to deities during Diwali. Goddess Lakshmi, the deity of wealth and prosperity, and Lord Ganesha, the god of wisdom, are often honored with devotion and reverence.
  5. Exchange of Gifts: Diwali is a time for giving and receiving. People exchange gifts and sweets as tokens of love and goodwill with family and friends.
  6. Cleaning and Decoration: In the days leading up to Diwali, homes are thoroughly cleaned and adorned with colorful decorations and lights. This preparation reflects the desire to invite positive energies into the household.
  7. Traditional Clothing: Many people wear new clothes, especially traditional attire, during Diwali. This tradition adds a sense of renewal and festivity to the celebrations.
  8. Feasting: Special meals and sweets are prepared during Diwali. Families come together to share delicious food, strengthening their bonds and creating cherished memories. Try these: Dal Makhani or Gajar Halwa.

Ibrar Hussain | Canva

Beyond its religious significance, Diwali is a cultural and social celebration that unites people from diverse communities and backgrounds. It represents the victory of light and goodness, a time for reflection, renewal, and fostering stronger bonds with family and friends.

If you have neighbors or friends who celebrate Diwali, consider joining in their festivities or learning more about the customs and traditions of this beautiful festival. Diwali is not just an Indian festival; it's a global celebration of unity, hope, and the triumph of light over darkness.