Celebrating Diwali: A Festival of Lights

Brazilians (especially me) love their holidays.

I might be slightly different in that I love all holidays.

No matter where in the world they’re celebrated.

As long as the purpose is one of family, food and love, you can count me in.

Which is why I’m celebrating Diwali this week.

It’s an ancient Hindu holiday with some interesting themes, traditions, and of course, dishes.

What Is Diwali?

Diwali is a very large and very bright festival in India that celebrates the Nov-08_DiwaliDay_Illustrate_000050239544_Mediumvictory of light over darkness. The “big night” of the festival coincides with the darkest new moon night in autumn and remaining nights are celebrated as the moon begins to wax again.

It’s India’s most important holiday, taking its name from the deepa (clay lamps) that Indians place outside their homes to “symbolize the inner light that protects us from spiritual darkness”.

Originally a harvest festival during which people would seek blessings from the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, it still marks the beginning of the Indian fiscal year.

The story of the holiday and its traditions differ among Hindus, depending upon the region they live in. But in each interpretation, there is a common theme: the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness.

Celebrating Diwali Takes 5 Days

Another great thing about Diwali is that it typically goes on for five whole days, with each day having a meaningful theme and its own celebratory activities.

Indian special traditional sweet food LadduDay One: Called Dhanteras, derived from the words for wealth and thirteenth, the festival kicks off on the 13th day of Krishna Paksha in the month of Kartik. People pray for wealth and good health, clean and renovate their homes and businesses, prepare sweets to offer the goddess, decorate their homes with colorful Rangoli designs and light their diyas at night to bring enlightenment and drive out the darkness.

Day Two: Nakar Chaturdashi (or Choti Diwali) is the day when people first rub themselves in oil, then bathe and dress in new clothing. They serve traditional dishes and lots of sweets throughout the day and light fireworks and firecrackers at night.

Day Three: This is THE day in the Diwali celebration. People pray, offer flowers and sweets, recite mantras and sing and dance for blessings. Huge feasts and fireworks dominate the night.

Day Four: In honor of Krishna, Govardhan Puja is the day when massive amounts of food are offered up and married couples are celebrated for their devotion. (Husbands usually give their wives a gift.)

Day Five: Bhaiduj is all about siblings. Brothers and sisters will show their love by sharing meals and gifts and wishes for long life.

What to Eat on Diwali?

Nov-08_ChefRecipeSweets dominate Diwali. There’s lots of savory to go around, too. But mithai is everywhere during Diwali. A cross between a confectionary dessert and a snack, they’re eaten throughout the festival.

You might also find some of these popular dishes at your local Diwali festivities:

  • Ladoo is a popular sweet that comes in dozens of different varieties.
  • Gulam Jamun are aromatic, luscious softballs of sweetness.
  • Jalebi is a sugar-dipped orange that is as much a part of the everyday diet as Diwali.
  • Ghathias are crunchy, salty chips made with flour or maida.
  • Badam Phirni is almost universally loved.

The most important part of the holiday is, of course, to celebrate the light in your life with the people you love and care for – your family and friends, your spouses and siblings.

And, to help you sweetly celebrate, here’s a plant-based recipe for Saffron-Infused Creamy Pudding Kesar Phirni from Vegan Richa.