Diwali, one of the most important festivals in India, commenced Thursday, with the main festivities due to take place on Saturday, November 14.
Each year, Hindus, Sikhs and Jains across the world celebrate Diwali. The festival symbolizes new beginnings and the triumph of good over evil, and light over darkness.
Festivities usually lasts for five days, and include gathering with family members, sharing tasty food, watching spectacular fireworks and visiting temples.
Streets, houses, shops and public buildings are decorated with small oil lamps made from clay called “diyas,” illuminating them with a warm, festive glow.
This part of the festival acknowledges the Hindu god Lord Rama and the legend of his return to his kingdom after fourteen years in exile. Light symbolizes purity, good luck and power.
Hindus in cities and villages across the world also believe that during Diwali the Hindu goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, will visit their homes if they are illuminated, clean and beautifully decorated.
Lakshmi puja, which involves a prayer ritual, is also a significant part of Hindu religion. It’s a time to give thanks and pray for a good harvest.
But as the coronavirus pandemic continues to halt plans for mass gatherings and many countries remain in lockdown, this year’s Diwali will be very different for many.
Experts have also warned that gathering in groups to celebrate Diwali could lead coronavirus cases to rise, especially in India’s capital where infections are already surging, exacerbated by India entering its annual air pollution season.
Here’s how the festival is being celebrated across the world in 2020.
Rahi Chadda, a model, actor and fashion influencer based in London, tells CNN Travel that Covid and the current English lockdown forced him to cancel plans for his annual Diwali dinner parties, which usually cater to around thirty of his friends and family.
Ajay Devanarayanan, 22, a student from Devon, England, tells CNN Travel that in lieu of meeting and celebrating together, his family have been sharing hopeful, thoughtful messages via social media group chats.
Devanarayanan says conversations have revolved around how the true essence of Diwali is finding positivity in the moment, and being grateful for health and happiness. Large-scale celebrations aren’t necessary; what’s important is cherishing time spent with those close to you.
Across the pond in the US, 26-year-old Neha Sharma, a dancer based in Los Angeles, California, says she’ll miss the huge parties and firecrackers that usually characterize her family’s Diwali celebrations, but she’s finding the joy in her at-home festivities.
In Canada, Smita Galbraith, who works as a citizen representative in British Columbia says she sees Diwali as the beginning of the new year and a time for a fresh start. This year is no different on that front, but in other ways the celebrations feel different.
“We typically would celebrate with having sweets and savory snacks shared between our family and friends. We go to our friends’ house and light sparklers and also my kids and I go to the temple, and also light up diyas and make some fun rangoli designs outside our house.”