By : LF Shen
18 October 2017
Photo credit: Little India Shopkeepers & Heritage Association
Deepavali, known as the Festival of Lights, is celebrated by Hindus around the world. It symbolises the triumph of good over evil, so the tradition is to light up homes with colourful candles and clay oil lamps.
That was as much as I knew about Deepavali until I joined in the celebrations at the home of a good friend. I found it very similar to how Singaporean Chinese celebrate Chinese New Year (CNY), with only a few differences.
The same-same feelings
The big overhaul – spring cleaning
Preparations for the festival can begin as early as months in advance with most of the time spent on cleaning, re-painting and decorating the entire house.
A good excuse to shop for new clothing
Bright colours are popular choices. Black and white are not viewed as ‘celebratory’.
Giving festive packets aka ang pow
Festive packets for Deepavali have the same concept, just that they do not come only in 1 colour. Parents usually give their children, and the children of relatives and friends, these festive packets. The amount of money is up to the generosity of the giver.
Feasting on yummy snacks
If CNY has pineapple tarts and bak kwa, Deepavali has murukku, traditional sweets as well as cookies and cakes that are enjoyed by all.
The somewhat differences
It is not a celebration of a new year
Surprise! This is one of the most common myths about Deepavali.
Decorations goes beyond the home
Beautiful coloured rice powder is used to create intricate designs called Rangoli on the floor inside or outside of homes. These days they come in sticker and acrylic pieces as well. Festive fairy lights are put up on the windows too.
Everything has to be ‘right’
Right is preferred over left. Hindus eat and receive things using the right hand. I have to confess, I did not know about the ‘right’ rule until my host mentioned it over dinner.
Useful tips to complete your Deepavali experience
For those who are invited to experience Deepavali this year, here are my tips!
- Wear traditional outfits - Wear a sari or a kurta to impress your host! Be adventurous!
- Bring along some snacks - If you feel uncomfortable going empty handed, consider bringing Indian sweets, or chocolates. If you are up for a challenge, you can even make your own Indian sweets.
- Learn a greeting - Say this: Deepavali Valzthukal (Valz-thu-kal) when you see your host. It means ‘Happy Deepavali’ and is sure to put a smile on their faces!