Diwali marks the time to celebrate the victory of light over darkness, and to welcome everyone into a brand New Year. It is a time to gather together and perform traditions and rituals, and celebrate new beginnings.
To me, Diwali is exactly that – and so much more. It also represents a time of appreciation and gratitude for my family and for our unique traditions. My parents moved us to Canada from India when my sister and I were very young. Like many newcomers, they came here on their own – leaving family and friends behind – with the goal of establishing a new life for their young family.
I can remember that the absence of these deep social ties made it difficult for my family to maintain certain rituals and traditions. When it came to Diwali however, none of that mattered. My parents made sure that every year we celebrated this auspicious occasion together! We followed as many of the traditions and rituals of the celebration, ensuring a little bit of ‘back home’ shone on our new Canadian lives. Regardless of it being just the four of us celebrating, I have always felt full of love and light, and a sense of togetherness that I will forever be grateful for.
Yesterday, my family celebrated Diwali. Together. And as usual, everything was just as I remembered: The lighting of diyas – beautiful clay oil lamps that are lit to represent moving from darkness into the light. We placed more than 20 of them all over our home, welcoming in the new year light. This was followed by a family puja – a worship ceremony where we sing along to beautiful devotional songs called bhajans.
As I revisit the Diwali celebrations of my childhood, I am reminded of how our technology has advanced over the years: we started off with cassette tapes, moved on to CDs, spent some time using our MP3 players and now we stream these songs of celebration on Spotify :P
Keeping with tradition, the evening is rounded off with our version of ‘fireworks’ – everything from sparklers to firecrackers! Among my fondest memories growing up in a multicultural neighbourhood is the image of us launching our fireworks on the driveway, the neighbours acknowledging and honouring our traditions (regardless of their cultural background) and in some cases joining in on the fun!
Last night, my family ended our evening as we always have and always will, over a beautiful home-cooked traditional Indian meal. As usual, we laughed and joked, talked about all that we are grateful for and shared our ambitions for the new year ahead of us.
Whether the music comes from a wobbly cassette tape or via the latest HQ digital audio, whether we have sparklers or rockets, bindhi (okra) and bhaingan bharta (eggplant), it is the traditions of Diwali that make the celebration so special for me. I truly hope that for those of you celebrating, that you embrace light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance and good over evil.
Happy Diwali, from my family to yours.