The ancient Hindu festival of Diwali, lovingly called the festival of lights, was celebrated with deep fervor in Canada. One of the largest and brightest festivals of India, Diwali signifies the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, and hope over despair.
Justin Trudeau, the newly elected Prime Minister of Canada, greeted Hindu, Sikh, Jain and Buddhist communities of Canada on this auspicious occasion and said, “This holiday, which stands as an example of Canadian diversity, gives us the occasion to reflect on the important contributions of all our citizens. Diwali highlights our shared values of respect and inclusion, and our commitment to freedom and equality. It is a reminder that Canada is a nation made stronger not in spite of our differences, but because of them.”
Before Diwali, people clean, decorate, and purify their houses. On Diwali night, Hindus dress up in their best new outfits, usually of striking bright with matching ornaments, and light oil lamps and candles inside and outside their homes to dispel the darkness of ignorance. Families get together for collective prayers, typically to Lakshmi and Ganesh, to usher prosperity and wealth.
After prayers, fireworks follow, and loud bangs continue into early hours of the following morning. Delicacies for the family feast held after prayers are prepared in advance of this mega festival, the day schools are closed and marketplaces vie for a top spot in the “Best Decorated Market” contest held annually.
Popular Diwali desserts are made with sugar, milk ingredients and flour and are usually flavored with coconut, nuts and saffron. Perennial favourite are Gulab Jamuns—deep fried dough balls drenched in sugar syrup flavored with cardamoms and topped off with shredded nuts. Jalebis are a close second— orange deep-fried dough pipes of sugar.
While people living outside of India say that there’s nothing like celebrating Diwali back home, this illuminous day is celebrated across the world among expatriate Hindu population. However, a long year lies between now and the next round of festivities marking this symbolic festival that urges people to mend broken relationships and foster a spirit of love, acceptance, understanding and mutual respect.
Vinita Kinra is a Toronto-based author, editor, speaker and activist, best known for her short story collection, Pavitra in Paris, launched to critical acclaim in 2013. She is also a contributor for India’s largest English daily, The Times of India.