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N ovember 2019
C elebrating D iwali How the Hol iday Is Fami l iar Yet Unique
In my line of work, I have the opportunity to explore new countries, cultures, and holiday celebrations. This time of year, Americans are looking forward to enjoying Thanksgiving or Christmas without realizing another great holiday just took place: Diwali. Whenever I start thinking about the holidays, I can’t help but remember the times I spent celebrating this vibrant festival. Diwali, or Deepavali, is an Indian festival of lights that usually takes place at the end of October or near the beginning of November, depending on the Hindu lunar calendar. This festival dates back over 2,500 years and is still celebrated every year by Hindus around the world. Diwali is observed over the span of five days and represents the triumph of good over evil. I’ve been to several Diwali festivals in my lifetime, and I was lucky enough that the first one I ever attended was through the invitation of a friend. They were going to celebrate Diwali at its peak and were inviting their family and friends to join in on the festivities. My friend sprung the invitation on me unexpectedly, but of course I said yes. I’d never heard of Diwali before this, but I’ve always been the type of person who loves to submerge myself in other cultures, and I couldn’t let this opportunity pass me by. That first festival I went to was a few years ago, but I can still fully remember how much fun I had. It was wonderful to mingle with the variety of people who were there, try some excellent Indian food, and take in the vivid colors and lights. There were candles and clay pots burning
everywhere I looked and rangoli — which are patterns created by colored sand — on the floor. Many people were wearing traditional attire, including Nehru jackets, colorful dresses, and a variety of jewelry. What struck me most at the festival was that it was celebrated in a similar manner to how Americans enjoy Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, or any other holiday of the year. Everyone was socializing, enjoying great food, and mingling together for this special occasion. It’s one of the many amazing events I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing by being exposed to so many different cultures around the world. While each holiday or festival is unique in its own way, the manner in which cultures celebrate is largely similar. It’s two sides of the same coin. On
one side, there’s the familiarity of enjoying coming together with loved ones for food and good conversation. On the other, there’s the exceptional and unique facets in which that celebration is experienced. In every holiday, no matter where you are and how people celebrate, there lies the joy of community, culture, and family. The world is a wide place, and I have an unrelenting curiosity to explore as many cultures as I can. It’s through that curiosity that I’ve experienced so many unique and amazing moments throughout my life. If you have a chance to explore something new this holiday season, take that chance. You’ll be surprised by how much you can learn. –Michael Manely 1
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