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Celebrating Diwali in the United States

Diwali is a holiday that has long been celebrated in the Hindu religion, and that tradition is still practiced to this very day. No matter which country a family happened to reside in, observing Diwali is almost always a part of their yearly traditions. However, the way that families celebrate Diwali has changed drastically over the years, and this a particularly true in the United States. This is because many families who move to the United States combine their traditional Hindu practices with practices more commonly found in America to create a slightly skewed way of celebrating. Though the fundamentals are mostly the same, celebrating Diwali in the United States has changed over the recent years. In this article, we will discuss some of those changes as well as the reasons behind them.

What is Diwali?

Though Diwali is very widely celebrated and known throughout the majority of the world, many people in the United States are not familiar with this Hindu holiday. This is due to a variety of reasons, but mainly it is because of the diverse culture throughout America and the relatively low population of people who practice the Hindu religion. Here is a basic overview of Diwali to give people who aren’t familiar with it a little more insight.

Diwali is celebrated over the course of five consecutive days in either late October or early to mid-November each year. Though the celebration is quite different from the 4th of July that is traditionally celebrated in the United States, the use of fireworks is also very common while celebrating Diwali. Translating as “the festival of lights” the whole point of Diwali is to celebrate the victory of light over darkness, or to put it another way, it is the classic story of good versus evil, knowledge versus ignorance, and hope versus despair according to the Hindu religion. The primary night of Diwali takes place on the darkest night of the year of the Hindu Lunisolar month “Kartika”, and the fireworks, candles, and diyas are lit so the light can triumph over the darkness.

The Use of Fireworks

Though fireworks have long been a part of the Diwali celebration, the way they are used and the types that are used have changed immensely since the holiday has taken a foothold in the United States. Before, it was more similar to the 4th of July where cities and town put on large-scale show for everyone to enjoy, but now many families celebrate Diwali at their own home using consumer-grade fireworks and going to local stores to purchase sparklers that they can enjoy in their backyard. Though there are still some large-scale shows at Hindu temples across the country, most families celebrate Diwali privately with their close friends and relatives.

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Divas and Candles

Though many traditions have evolved surrounding Diwali in the United States, the use of candles and diyas, which are small oil lamps, has essentially remained unchanged. Families still light candles and diyas throughout their homes, and this practice is particularly common on the main night of Diwali. Additionally, many families will perform the Lakshmi Puja prayers nightly during the course of Diwali, and this prayer is traditionally sung by the light of candles and diyas. Though the technology has improved and there is a wider variety of candles and diyas available, the traditions surrounding their use has remained nearly unchanged.

Why it’s Different in the United States

There are a lot of reasons that the traditions surrounding Diwali have changed in the United States, but the most obvious reason is the result of two cultures combining to create a new and unique one altogether. Many Hindu families have deep roots in the United States with one or more generations being born here, so it is only natural for these families to adopt certain customs from the country where they live. Everything from the type of fireworks used to the clothing that is worn during Diwali has changed for many American-Hindu families, and chances are that those changes will only continue. Though some people frown on this type of evolution, most would agree that it is more important to keep this sacred holiday alive and well and continue to practice it for many generations to come.

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