Deepavali, traditionally known as the Festival of Lights, is a celebration of hope for the world and the triumph of good over evil. It is one of the most important festivals on the Hindu calendar.
When I was growing up, we’d be woken up at first light, taken to the prayer room, given new clothes, and told to wash our hair and wear our new clothes. Then we’d run outside and burst crackers of all sorts (flowerpots, chakras, rockets, string bombs). It was a great fun for a kid. A few weeks before the big day, you go with your parents, choose your fireworks and then carefully use them, making sure to ration them out to last till Deepavali (so you get two weeks of nightly fireworks, and the whole neighborhood is filled with noise of kids celebrating). On Deepvali, after you set off the biggest and the best fireworks that you’ve carefully kept aside, you consume a delicious breakfast and visit family you hadn’t see in a while. The whole morning was spent driving from one house to the next until everyone was checked off the list. Of course, you ate incredible food all along the way and come home to eat a sumptuous lunch before napping it all off.
As an adult in New York, I’ve adapted the tradition significantly. Since I can’t really set off fireworks on my fire escape, I sleep in, get up when I please and then pick out the new, unworn clothes I’ve reserved for the occasion and dress up. Then, I call family, wish them and proceed to enjoy the wonderful food the festival demands. I think I’ve kept the most important elements!