The ancient Hindu festival of Diwali is rapidly becoming a mainstay celebration in American culture. Translated as “festival of lights”, Diwali spans four days and is hallmarked by a range of festivities, including fireworks, gift giving and spending time with close friends and family. If taking part in this holiday is a new experience for you, you may wonder what to expect and how to make the festivities memorable and meaningful. You can prepare for this fall’s Diwali celebrations in Houston by knowing how each day of this holiday is celebrated.
Dharteras, the first day of the holiday, is marked by initial preparations for the rest of the four day period. People clean their homes and businesses thoroughly, and women decorate their homes’ floor with elaborate patterns known as rangoli. They also decorate themselves by painting their hands with henna. Men focus on hanging outdoor lights on their homes and businesses and buying fireworks for the festivities.
This first day of Diwali also remains one of the busy shopping days of the celebration as people visit their favorite stores to buy gifts and food for loved ones. Common Diwali gifts include jewelry, clothing, housewares, electronics and even big ticket items like cars.
The second day of the festival, Diwali, is a day to welcome the Hindu deity Lakshmi into your home. Families leave the doors and windows of their homes open so that Lakshmi can visit them. This is a day that you should also wear your best clothing and likewise honor your mother with gifts. Mothers are honored on the second day of the holiday for all of their hard work and dedication to their children and families.
On Diwali, people also set out lights on their window sills and doorsteps to invite Lakshmi to their homes. People gather with friends and loved ones to share sweet treats and exchange gifts. You can likewise mark the festivities with fireworks in the evening. Fireworks on this night are said to chase away evil spirits.
Padwa, the third day, is a day that celebrates marriages and newlyweds. In fact, newlyweds are often invited over to people’s homes for dinner. Men also give their wives elaborate gifts like jewelry, kitchen wares and cars on this day. People host relatives on both sides of the family for an evening of food, drinks, sweet treats, conversation and fireworks.
In many ways, Padwa is the equivalent of a wedding anniversary in Western countries. If you are married, you can celebrate this third day of Diwali by honoring your spouse and buying him or her a special gift to mark the occasion. You can also invite both of your extended families over for dinner and dessert.
This last day of Diwali is reserved for the relationship and bond between a brother and sister. Indeed, brothers should travel to visit their sisters and share a meal with them. If a woman has no brother, another brother figure, like a cousin or friend of the family, may take this role.
Likewise, women spend this day praying for their own brothers. They gather with their mothers, sisters, aunts and female friends to petition the gods for their brothers’ safety and wellness. On Bhai Duj, you can share gifts with your brothers or sisters. Families typically gather on this evening to continue the ritual of sharing dinner and gifts with one another.
Religious Significance of Diwali
Aside from being a holiday that encourages families to celebrate and give gifts to each other, Diwali also holds significant religious meanings for Hindus across the world. Countries like India, Sri Lanka and Singapore, among others, take these four days to honor and celebrate deities like Vishnu, Lakshmi, Rama, Sita, Kali and others.
Moreover, in reference to it being the “festival of lights”, Diwali also holds significance as a spiritual reminder of light triumphing over darkness and hope prevailing over despair. People celebrate knowledge being greater than ignorance and good winning over bad. Children are told stories and myths about these themes to teach them about the special nature of Diwali.
These underlying themes of Diwali correspond with the time of the year when this holiday is celebrated. It can occur anywhere from the middle of October to the middle of November. The culmination of Diwali takes place on the night of the year with the darkest new moon.
Diwali has made its way into American culture and will be celebrated in many U.S. cities like Houston this year. If you have been invited to share in this year’s festivities or you would like to partake of the fun and religious significance on your own, you can prepare accordingly by knowing how this ancient Hindu festival is typically celebrated. Each of the four nights is marked in different ways. You can honor your loved ones and show respect for the various religious aspects of this holiday by knowing how each day of Diwali is celebrated.