Editor’s Note: The article below was originally published in October 2014 and has been updated.
Diwali, also known as the festival of lights, began Wednesday
The five-day holiday celebrates the triumph of good over evil
People worldwide celebrate Diwali with colorful displays of lights and fireworks
The Hindu holiday of Diwali is India’s biggest and brightest national holiday. But Indians around the world come together to celebrate the festival of lights.
The five-day celebration of good over evil is as important to Hindus as Christmas is to Christians, and it marks the start of a new financial year for Indian businesses worldwide. But how much do you know about this global holiday, which began Wednesday? Here are some facts and stats to help you improve your Diwali literacy.
1. Diwali or Deepavali means rows of lights or lamps
Diwali is known as the festival of lights because of the oil lamps and electric lights that people use to decorate homes, businesses and public spaces. As a celebration of the victory of good over evil and light over darkness, light is an important physical and spiritual symbol of the holiday.
2. The name for a Hindu place of worship is “mandir”
Christianity has churches, Judaism has synagogues, Islam has mosques and Hinduism has mandirs. On Diwali, Indians living abroad gather in mandirs for community celebrations. People leave offerings of food at the altars of different gods and gather for communal meals. Some mandirs host fireworks displays.
3. Followers of various religions observe customs related to Diwali
For many Indians, Diwali honors Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth. They light their homes and open their doors and windows to welcome her. In addition to Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs also celebrate Diwali in such countries as Nepal, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Singapore. Legends and customs accompanying Diwali celebrations vary among religions and regions.
4. People spend a lot of time getting ready
Families spend days cleaning and decorate their homes in preparation for Diwali. They also shop for new clothes and outfits to wear to celebrations. Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of ways to go about this, from arts and crafts to makeup tricks to help you “shimmer, shine and sparkle.”
5. Diwali is a big celebration in England, too
In 2014, about 30,000 people attended a “switch-on” of more than 6,000 lamps in Leicester to mark the start of Diwali. Indians are the second-largest minority in Britain, according to IBT.
6. An episode of “The Office” was dedicated to Diwali
In one of few depictions of the holiday in American pop culture, bumbling Dunder Mifflin boss Michael Scott encourages his staff to support Kelly Kapoor by attending a local Diwali celebration. Cringe-worthy moments ensue.