Diwali or Deepavali also known as the “festival of lights“, is an ancient Hindu festival celebrated in autumn every year. This year, the festival will be celebrated from 23rd Oct 2014. The festival spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, and hope over despair. The festival preparations and rituals typically extend over a five day period, but the main festival night of Diwali coincides with the darkest, new moon night of the Hindu month Kartik.
Before Diwali night, people clean, renovate and decorate their homes. On Diwali night, Hindus dress up in new clothes or their best outfit, light up diyas (lamps and candles) inside and outside their home, participate in family puja typically to Lakshmi - the goddess of wealth and prosperity. After puja (prayers), fireworks follow, then a family feast including mithai (sweets), and an exchange of gifts between family members and close friends. Diwali also marks a major shopping period in nations where it is celebrated.
Diwali is an important festival not just for Hindus, but an important occasion for everyone in India. In many parts of India, the festivities start with Dhanteras, followed by Naraka Chaturdasi on second day, Diwali on the third day, Diwali Padva dedicated to wife-husband relationship on the fourth day, and festivities end with Bhau-beej dedicated to sister-brother bond on the fifth day. Dhanteras usually falls eighteen days after Dussehra.
Exchange of gifts between family members and close friends during Diwali is an established tradition. This trend in the recent years is that people are moving away from gifting the high calorie, high sugar traditional sweets to either chocolate or dry fruits which are healthier.
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