My Festival of Lights
November 14, 2012 in Culture
My holiday season is officially kicking off!
Yesterday I celebrated one of my most treasured holidays – Diwali. Known as the festival of lights, Diwali is to me what Christmas/Hannukah is to most of my friends. It’s a time to spend with my family, eat delicious food, visit friends, exhchange gifts, wear new clothes, hustle aunties and uncles in Indian poker, dance, light candles, play with sparklers/firecrackers, drink fancy single malts, stuff my face with sweets, and just celebrate all that is wonderful in life.
The festival revolves around Laxmi, the goddess of wealth. Diyas are lit to make her feel welcome and prayer ceremonies are held to honor and worship her. It is the start of the fiscal year for many Indian business-type-people and I definitely made my offerings and whispers for a prosperous and peaceful year ahead.
When I was a kid, my whole family used to come together for Diwali prayer ceremonies in the family office followed by a big family dinner at my grandparents’ house. The night would inevitably end in my cousins and I dancing around the backyard with sparklers and giggling uncontrollably. Some of my fondest childhood memories come from this holiday, and if/when I ever kids, I fully intend on making it just as special for them.
I am so damn proud of my Indian heritage and culture. I wouldn’t trade these traditions for anything in the whole world. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Thanksgiving and Christmas spirit as much as the next American girl, but it’s nice to have something to call my own…. something that I don’t have to share with all my friends…. something so very near and dear to my heart…. something that connects me to my ancestors despite the thousands of miles between me and my native land. It’s a wonderful thing to be Indian and share in so much rich history, culture and tradition.
This year was a rather important Diwali for me for several reasons…
Firstly, it is the first Diwali I am spending with my parents since I graduated from college. Unfortunately, last year my mom, my dad, my brother and myself were scattered all over the globe. This year, my brother came home over the weekend and we quasi-celebrated together as a family with lots of bonding and family dinners. When you can’t spend the holidays with your family, they just never feel right. I was extremely grateful to get some quality family time this year.
Secondly, it is Kodi’s first Diwali! So grateful for this disastrous little bundle of joy in our family. Kodi wasn’t really sure what was going on, but he did enjoy eating some Indian sweets, wearing his new green sweater, and chewing on my/my mom’s fancy Indian clothes. He was also thrilled to have all four of us home to play with and snuggle with.
Thirdly, I’ve recently started a couple new business ventures and it was nice to mumble out my prayers and wishes for good luck in the new year. I’ve been powering through all my work and seeing results, but every little guardian angel helps…. especially when the recipe success calls for equal parts hard work and luck!
I love the holiday cheer and sense of community that seems to explode in our group of Indian friends when Diwali comes around. Every year, my mom prepares little gift bags to give to all of our family friends. They usually include a diya (decorative candle holder/oil lamp) of sorts and bunch of chocolate/nuts/Indian sweets. Not only does my mom make these adorable little tokens, but in the days leading up to Diwali she goes to each house and hand delivers the packages.
This year I went with my mom to deliver the packages and it was the best decision I made all weekend. The concept of visiting someone’s house during the holidays to deliver a gift, sit down with them for a cup of coffee, and just chat and enjoy the spirit of the season is a tradition that is severely underrated and, in my opinion, unjustly dying out. I long for the days of dropping in on friends and family just to say ‘Hello!’ E-cards and phone calls are all well and fine, but good friends should visit each other to celebrate festivals and each other.
PLUS, it’s an excuse to get all dolled up in fantastic looking Indian clothes and stuff your face with delicious Indian sweets. NOM NOM NOM.
I had the pleasure of wearing a new Indian outfit all day yesterday. The salwaar kameez I chose to wear yesterday was made with so much love one of my mom’s best friends in India AND it used parts of a sari that my grandmother gifted to my mom.
After the various prayer ceremonies, my parents and I went for a party at a family friends place. Party on a religious holiday? Are you serious, Nikki? SO SERIOUS.
Listen up, friends, because this is one of the biggest lessons you will ever learn about Indian people: WE. LOVE. TO. PARTY. We love to drink. We love to eat. We love to sing loudly in really bad voices. We love to dance and change lightbulbs all night long. We love to gamble. We love to scream at one another. We love to laugh so loud that the neighbors make noise complaints. We love it. And on Diwali, it doesn’t matter if we spent all day in a temple…. once the sun sets, you can be damn sure that we will be gathered in someone’s basement eating, drinking, throwing poker chips around, and having a FREAKING BLAST.
This year, for the first time ever, I allowed myself to participate in a game of Indian poker (thanks, employment). Years of practice with my family coupled with a semester of hustling all my guy friends at Boy’s Night Poker finally paid off. Here’s a big apology to all the aunties and uncles that were hustled by me last night. Ooopsieeesss, haha.
Nobody seemed to mind, least of all me. There is no better way to jet into a prosperous year than winning with a few good hands in poker!
I had a fantastical time yesterday, and I cannot wait to see what the new year has in store for me. I hope that all of my brown town friends had an equally amazing celebration!!
Wishing you all lots of health, wealth and happiness,