History, art and culture
Evan

Diwali New York: A Festival of Light

Have you experienced Diwali in New York yet? Many cultures have festivities that celebrate the triumph of light over dark, or good over evil. They’re especially prevalent this time of year, when the days get shorter and the sun seems to set at 3 PM. Coming up this week is Diwali in New York, which will see the city set aglow as a result of The Festival of Light. Keep reading for all the details on what it is and how to celebrate.

So, what is Diwali?

Diwali, sometimes known as Deepavali or Dipavali, is the five-day festival of lights; it celebrates the triumph of light over darkness. (The word ”diwali” comes from a word in Sanskrit meaning “rows of lighted lamps.”) It’s celebrated by religions around the world, including Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and some Buddhists. While the different faiths celebrate different events and stories, they all celebrate knowledge over ignorance; good over evil. It celebrates the return of King Rama’s defeat of Ravana, a multi-headed demon king, by lighting clay lamps. The actual days are dictated by the Hindu lunar calendar; this year it’s being celebrated on Sunday, Oct. 27.

How is Divali celebrated?

You’ll often see temples, shops, and even office buildings lit up. The preparations and the festival itself can take up to five days. Tasks include cleaning and decorating homes, preparing a meal, exchanging gifts, and make offerings to Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity. Celebrations often include worship ceremonies, religious rituals, meals, and sweets; you’ll also see firework displays, as well as Rangoli—patterns created on the floor, using colored powder or rice.

What foods are eaten on Diwali?

Sweets are very important on this holiday. Ones often eaten include Kheer (a kind of rice pudding, often flavored with cardamom, raisins, and nuts); gulab jamun (a sweet made primarily from milk solids); and Shankarpali (a kind of fried cookie). Yum.

Are there any Diwali celebrations in New York?

Yes! You can find Diwali celebrations throughout the city.

  • October 27 from 6 -9 PM: The Bhakti Center (25 1st Avenue) will offer music and dance performances, henna and face painting booths, and food stalls. It will end with an offering of lamps.
  • October 27: Staten Island Children’s Museum (1000 Richmond Terrace) will offer a celebration for all ages from 1–4 PM. Kids can make their own artwork using different colored sand.
  • And if you just can’t get your act together this month, the celebrations extend until November—check out Camp Friendship’s in Brooklyn from 3:30 – 6 PM.
  • October 25 from noon to 5 PM: Metropolitan Museum of Art (1000 Fifth Avenue) is offering World Culture Festival: Dance!. It celebrates cultures around the world, including The Colors of Krishna’s Love, a puppet show celebrating Diwali that will be offered three times throughout the afternoon.

If you're not ready to leave behind the celebrations just yet, why not check out our blog on the Village Halloween Parade?

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