"Fireworks take away our worries for a moment"
Booming fireworks, fiery candles and fresh cultural feasts are just some of the ways British Asians celebrate Diwali.
The ‘Festival of Lights’ is a highly anticipated occasion and marks one of the biggest holidays of the year.
Diwali celebrates the triumph of light over darkness and many Desi communities rejoice in this honour.
Diwali is a time for family and friends to come together. Whilst the whole holiday is actually a five-day spectacle, it is normally celebrated in the UK on one specific day.
Exchanging gifts, sprucing up the home, buying new clothes and getting together with the family means Diwali is an unforgettable event.
Of course, households are brightly lit and some families turn on all the lights in the house along with igniting special clay oil candles referred to as ‘diyas’.
With so much going on, the spectacle is a time of appreciation, gratitude and celebration of hope. Here are five of the ways in which people celebrate Diwali.
Of course, with any major South Asian holiday, there are bound to be tables filled with fresh food, luscious sweets and traditional snacks.
Samosas, bhajis, aloo tikki, pakoras and many more dishes are served for the entire family.
Whilst some families may cook different things like meaty curries or vegetarian meals, there’s always more than enough made.
Perhaps the most sought-after food, especially amongst children, are the sweets, also known as ‘mithai’.
Fudgy slices of barfi, fried jalebi, sweetened ladoos and moist gulab jamun’s are all gobbled up because of their delicious and comforting flavour.
However, whilst the taste of these indulgent treats is one thing, they signify something much more. Asha Shipman, a Hindu Chaplain at Yale University states:
“Sweets are very, very important in our Diwali celebrations.
“The sweets signify forgetting any bitterness between us and letting bygones be bygones.”
Food is one of the staples to celebrate Diwali and it symbolises bringing the family together.
The most iconic way to celebrate Diwali is by letting off loads of loud and colourful fireworks.
Sparklers, rockets, firecrackers and fountains burst with vibrant colours, illuminating the night sky and providing a sense of excitement for all.
The thrill is felt mainly by children but the whole family gets involved when it’s fireworks time.
In western supermarkets, Diwali firework stands are seen throughout the build-up to the holiday with specialist sets that all include the best selections.
Manjit Singh, a bus driver from Birmingham told DESIblitz how important fireworks are to Diwali:
“For me and my family, fireworks are the best thing. They get all the kids excited and everyone’s running around in the garden.
“It’s fun and when we try to light them all at once, it’s funny as everyone runs back once the firework is lit.
“For those 15/20 minutes, we forget about the world and just enjoy being with our family. Fireworks take away our worries for a moment.”
This shows how every element associated with Diwali is so precious and why it’s such a beloved holiday amongst many South Asians, both young and old.
Of course, as the ‘Festival of Lights’, houses are lit up throughout the day and night with candles and lamps to signify protection and overcoming evil.
Diyas symbolise the warmth of family and also spiritual healing for all of those inside the home.
Whilst the inside of the house shines, it brings a happy and bright atmosphere to the whole celebration of Diwali.
It brings a certain energy and manages to uplift the spirits of family, friends and guests.
Even across the UK, British Asians go to different parties and gatherings to light candles and pay their respects to deities.
Some families also light candles outside of their houses to welcome loved ones into their homes and to call upon positive energy for the future.
The significance of light is unparalleled during Diwali. It signals purity, luck and power and all the good in the world which is why it is so sacred during this holiday.
For some British Asians, they celebrate Diwali by decluttering their houses and rejuvenating them with different items.
This could be a new carpet, new dishes or even fresh wallpaper. Something small as newly bought bedsheets are also used to add a tidy nature to the home.
It’s normally a family practice where music will be on and members will dance around as they dispose of the clutter.
It symbolises a new start and also reiterates the idea of good, clean energy inside the walls of the home.
Billu Magar, a retired banker from London cleans her home every year for Diwali and said:
“Making the house spic and span for Diwali gives us such happiness. We do it as a family and have music on. Whilst my sister cooks up a storm, the kids and I will clean.
“But we make it fun, and everyone has their own bits to do. It’s kind of that feeling you get on Christmas, where everyone is in good spirits.
“We even decorate the garden and entrances with rangoli to add that finishing touch and make the whole process that extra bit special.”
Rangoli is a type of art decoration made out of colourful sand, rice, or flower petals to ward off negative energy.
The symmetrical design is used to spruce up the house and add some extra brightness to the whole occasion.
Guests and Family
Family, guests and loved ones are an integral part of any Diwali celebration.
Having a home full of laughter and chatter is what makes the event so special.
It’s also a chance for guests to come over where gifts are exchanged, chai is poured and the delicious food is shared.
As is typical within South Asian culture, you never quite know who will show up at your front door. But, it’s all part of Diwali fun.
You could see the party uncle who will bring nothing but energy or an auntie that’s come for a quick gossip. Regardless, all are welcome inside when it’s such a spectacle.
Pinky Segar, a factory worker from Leicester revealed why the family ideal is so important to celebrate Diwali:
“We are all together and it makes Diwali so special. People come over and you don’t want the day to end.
“We all eat, drink, light fireworks, make tea and have mithai altogether. Then if someone else comes, we do it all again, just because everyone is full of energy.
“Normally for Asians, when someone turns up it’s almost a burden. But, on this day, we love it.
“It’s a togetherness which makes Diwali so much.”
There are many ways British Asians celebrate Diwali which normally involves doing all of the above.
Whilst some families may just do fireworks and light candles, others may clean the house and reflect on their life.
The celebrations differ but in most cases, each household is full of sparkle, traditional food, colourful antics and booming fireworks.
Diwali is a unique occasion and the festivities highlight why it’s so vastly enjoyed.