Diwali, the West Indian and South Asian festival of lights, is a five-day festival that celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance. The tradition is celebrated in Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Sikh communities of South Asia and the Diaspora.
It is a national holiday in many countries. South Asia includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Many of these are growing communities in NYC.
Diwali is Latin in its Caribbean context. The Caribbean has a large South Asian diaspora in Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Diwali falls on the 15th day of Kartik, the holiest month in the Hindu lunar calendar. The date varies every year with the cycles of the moon.
Diwali NYC 2023
Diwali NYC 2023 is Sunday-Thursday, November 12-16, 2023. The peak is November 15.
Diwali NYC 2022
The four or five day festival peaks on Monday, October 24, 2022.
NYC Mayor Adams announced plans to make Diwali a New York Public School holiday, starting in 2023. It replaces the archaic Anniversary Day celebration.
Manhattan’s 53rd St Library in Midtown, Manhattan is hosting a Diwali book reading for children on Monday, October 24, 2022 at 11am.
The Bhakti Center in the Lower East Side is hosting its 5th Diwali celebration with an Indian dance performance, traditional songs, food, henna tattoos, face painting and a lamp lighting on Monday, October 24, 2022 from 6-9pm. bhakticenter.org
How is Diwali Latin?
Diwali is Latin through the Caribbean. Caribbean countries went through layers of colonization. After abolition, British colonies brought over half a million indentured servants from South Asia to work in the Caribbean sugar cane plantations.
Today Indo-Caribbeans are a plurality (the largest group, but not a majority) in Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Suriname. There is also a large Indo-Caribbean community in Jamaica.
The big idea is the “victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance.” It’s also Hindu New Year, so that is celebrated as well.
The festival normally lasts four or five days. Each day has a different focus.
- On Day 1, we clean our homes and shop for things that represent good fortune.
- On Day 2, we decorate with clay lamps and “rangoli” patterns drawn on the floor with colored powders, sand, rice, or flower petals.
- Day 3 is basically New Year’s Eve. Families gather for a feast, fireworks and Lakshmi puja prayers to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.
- Day 4 is the start of the new year. We exchange gifts.
- Day 5 is a day when brothers share a meal with their married sisters.
The ritual of lamp lighting is very human. The smoke rising in the air symbolizes letting go of the past, and hope for a brighter future.
When you step back and think about it, many different cultures around the world have similar celebrations. Something about being human that leads us all to do similar things.