Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, is one of the most celebrated holidays of the entire year for Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and even some Buddhists. The name “Diwali” is derived from the Sanskrit term deepavali, meaning “row of lights.” The five-day festival symbolizes the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance. While the specific date of this holiday changes each year due to the lunar calendar, it usually falls sometime in late October to November. This year, Diwali was on Monday, October 24th.
Disney College Program cast members at Disney’s Flamingo Crossings had the opportunity to learn about the customs and traditions of Diwali through an immersive panel session. The highlight of the event included audience members who volunteered to dress up in traditional attire of vibrant colors, while trying some delicious Indian snacks and traditional sweets! It was both informative and immersive with great audience participation.
Observance of Diwali can vary from region to region, depending on local or generational traditions. One of the most widespread customs is the lighting of clay lamps called diyas, which light a path for a visit from the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi. In preparation for the holiday, families clean and sanitize their homes before doing their prayers, or puja. Along with diyas, homes are decorated with beautiful colored powder designs called rangoli. To honor the auspicious holiday, many buy new clothes and gold, to symbolize new beginnings and set the tone for a prosperous new year. It is very common to exchange sweets and gifts with friends and family, very similar to Christmas traditions. Since Diwali falls on the darkest day of the month, fireworks light up the sky to chase away the darkness.
Growing up in the UK, Diwali was a warm kick off to the holiday season for my family. Decorations and lights were strung throughout the house during the holidays, and we added diyas or tea lights specifically during Diwali. As I reflect back on those childhood memories, it’s no wonder the Christmas tree in our home is always up very early, to begin the holiday season and include Diwali.
Celebrating family, love, and loyalty is what Diwali represents for me, as well as giving back to those less fortunate. Though my family now lives in India, I have been extremely fortunate to find a new family here at Disney to celebrate with. They have embraced my diversity and respect how much my culture and heritage means to me, which showcases the key of inclusion. Another key foundation of Diwali is charity work, and that aligns with Disney’s company-wide efforts of giving back to the community through Disney’s VoluntEARS program, which helps thousands each year!