Celebrations around the world: Diwali, 2nd - 6th November

Diwali, also known as Deepavali, is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains. It takes place over five days, around the beginning of November.

Diwali falls at the beginning of the Hindu new year and celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, both in the sense of the fireworks and diwas that are used to illuminate the joyous occasion and in the metaphorical victory of knowledge over ignorance. Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, is honoured during the festival, and celebrations are also linked to the famous legend of lovers Rama and Sita, who were welcomed back from their exile in the forest with a row of diwa lamps.

Each of Diwali’s five days has its own name and is celebrated differently. Dhanteras is for cleaning the home and buying new items for the home. Choti Diwali is when people decorate their homes and create rangoli designs on the floors. The third day, the most important, is Diwali, and this is when homage is paid to Lakshmi, lights are lit, firework displays are held and families get together to eat. Padwa is for husbands and wives to exchange gifts, and the final day of Bhai Duj is for siblings to celebrate their bond.

Are you celebrating Diwali? Please get in touch and tell us how! We would love to hear from you, email nicole.kershaw@newham.gov.uk

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Celebrations of the dead around the world

Celebrations of the dead - Person in full face paint for Dia de los Muertos

Around the northern hemisphere, many different cultures take part in celebrations of the dead at the point where summer turns to autumn. Among these are: Samhain (Gaelic), Dziady (Slavic), Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)(Mexican), Hop-tu-naa (Isle of Man), Halloween/All Souls Day (European and American), Calan Gaeaf (Welsh).

Pre-Christian cultures in Europe ushered in the dark days of autumn and winter with these festivals, many believing that during this time of transition, spirits could walk the earth. There is still debate about why this coincides with the Christian three-day remembrance of the dead (All Hallow’s/Saints’ Eve, All Hallows’/Saints’ Day, All Souls’ Day), which has even been blended with Mesoamerican culture in the Mexican Dia de los Muertos.

Every celebration varies in its specifics, however most involve fire and light - either used as guides for spirits or as a way to ward them off - offerings to the dead in the form of food and drink, and special prayers. Halloween and Dia de los Muertos have been popularised and have evolved alongside modern life with their own, more recent traditions.

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