The festival of lights, better known as Diwali or Deepavali is a celebration found in the Hindu culture that embodies light overcoming darkness. It was one of the most eagerly awaited celebrations on the Hindu calendar and is usually celebrated towards the end of October  or the beginning of November.

This celebration is full of happiness and love as it focuses on knowledge over ignorance and hope over despair. In India, it has been known to be one of the most beautiful nights of the year as houses are lit with lamps and the night to celebrated by lighting fireworks. South Africa is also big on Diwali and we celebrate it in a similar way.

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A satellite image of India on Diwali

On Diwali, we wear our best clothes, we prepare by spring cleaning and renovating just to get our homes and families ready for this day. Our houses are decorated with lights (a lot like Christmas lights) from a few days before to bring in this special day in style.

As a child, Diwali was my favorite day. We got to take a day off school, we got to buy new clothes, new shoes and sometimes my mom even took us to get our henna and hair done at the salon. For some Hindus, this day was also the day we take part in a family prayer to the Goddess Lakshmi who brings good health, wealth and prosperity.

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The Goddess Lakshmi

Relationships, family and friendships are extremely important during this time. So we exchange sweets (known as Mithai) to our loved ones. Sometimes these can be homemade Indian sweets, chocolates and biscuits. This is one of the most eagerly awaited parts of Diwali. We go from house to house, visiting all our relatives and giving them a beautifully wrapped parcel of sweets.  We spend most of this day eating! It is the best part which is why people like my sister spends about three days of excessive gyming as most of our Mithai is made with TONS of fattening ingredients that makes it so good.

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My mom’s perfect parcel of mithai. Individually handmade and designed. She calls this her Bon-Bon option where she makes the usual sweets such as burfee or ladoo all into little perfect bite sized balls. 

 

Unfortunately, I have spent Diwali away from my family as I was at University. But this has never stopped me from decorating my own home, lighting my own beautiful lights, overeating my sweets and having a delicious dinner!

My mother is one of the most talented and creative people I know. She has always made the best Mithai and many people just wait to receive my moms parcel so they can indulge. Her love of baking promoted her to start a little business where she specializes in making these sweets for functions and celebrations. Her business has boomed over the last few years and I am lucky to enough to have received a HUGE cooler bag filled with her designer sweets!

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My morning tray. We prepare a tray in the morning to add to our prayer as an offering to the God’s. My tray was colourful and had some of my mom’s but sweetmeats. After the prayer is complete.

 

Although I didn’t get to spend this day with my family, I still managed to stick to old traditions and make this day a beautiful one filled with love, light and tons of food!

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Some homes have the tradition of making a milkshake in the morning called Bombay Crush. It is made with cardamom syrup or rose syrup and some vanilla ice cream. This is my version, and to accompany it I had Poli. Poli is a sweet pastry shaped in a half moon and filled with coconut and nuts. It is then fried n oil and enjoyed! I also decided to make some coconut macaroons.
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This is a lamp or better known as Dhiya in hindi. This lamp is a special one because it is lit the night before Diwali and placed at your front or back door. 
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The weather in Grahamstown was pretty bad on Diwali. It was cold, windy and rainy. So based on what my mom has taught me, I used little brown bags filled with sand to leave my lamps in. These lamps are usually tea lights.

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Maybe next year you could light a lamp and exchange some homemade sweets with your loved ones!

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