Diwali is a major festival for many Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains living around the globe. Also known as a festival of lights, it takes place over the course of five days sometime between the middle of October and the end of November. In India, it is widely regarded as the most important celebrations year-round and is marked by colored powders, colored lamps, and large family gatherings. Obviously, this is a challenge in the middle of a global pandemic where gatherings are the main source of infections for Covid-19. With some careful planning and consideration though, you can still take part in the festivities.
The five days of Diwali follow a specific structure:
Day One: Starts with cleaning and cleansing the home, and people shop for gold items or gold kitchen utensils to bring good luck in the upcoming year.
Day Two:, people use clay lamps to decorate their homes, and will design rangoli patterns on the floor using colored sand or brightly colored powders. Diwali has also become one of the most posted about and photographed festivals because of the vibrant and beautiful colors.
Day Three: The crux of the festival and is marked by large family gatherings for Lakshmi puja, or prayers to the goddess Lakshmi, with large meals and fireworks once it gets dark. Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth, and it is believed she visits homes that are illuminated, beautifully decorated, and clean. Whole cities across India and other primarily Hindu countries light up with a warm, festive feeling that comes from thousands of small lamps and decorative lights.
Day Four: Considered the first day of the new year, and family and friends gather again to bring gifts and wish each other luck in the oncoming year.
Day Five: Similar to day four, but is marked by brothers visiting their married sisters, who prepare a large meal to receive them.
Obviously, family gatherings are one of the most important elements of a majority of the days of Diwali, which makes it difficult to celebrate in quarantine. Many public figures who celebrate with large, publicized gatherings have said this year feels very different than previous years and have had to get creative to keep themselves and loved ones safe.
Some people are postponing the majority of festive gatherings and are celebrating more privately. Gatherings in general are smaller and are kept to more immediate family members who are quarantining beforehand to ensure the risk of transmission is as low as possible. Skype and other video chatting platforms also enable people to gather and wish each other well without having to travel and physically come into contact with loved ones, particularly those who are elderly and are more at-risk.
Many people who are celebrating but live alone are choosing to celebrate alone, and still clean and decorate their homes, get dressed up and prepare a traditional meal. They are planning phone calls or video calls with the rest of their family with some fun activities like trivia games that can be played remotely. Many commented that putting the traditional colored lamps outside their homes and seeing the lamps outside other homes even though gatherings were smaller or postponed brought a feeling of unity and togetherness in this isolated season.
Whether you are getting together or not this year, make sure you check in on your loved ones, particularly those who are isolated or may be struggling with all of the changes and challenges this year. A festival or holiday presents a great opportunity to reach out to loved ones that you may not see all that often but would likely connect with during the holidays. Just because you can’t gather like you normally would, you can still find ways to connect and let your loved ones know that they are important to you.