Festival of Lights
The Festival of Lights is celebrated by over a billion people throughout the world, and it is the annual festival for Diwali. This Hindu tradition is often considered the start of each new year.
Generally, the festival features celebrations at home and in large gatherings throughout India and elsewhere. They are of different faiths, but this holiday is becoming more mainstream in America. Even Times Square and Disneyland have stayed open throughout the winter months to host events.
This year, though, the annual festival was more intimate with families staying at home to celebrate amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
What Is the Festival of Lights?
Diwali, translated, means ‘rows of lighted lamps.’ It comes with various legends attached to it. Some people believe that this day celebrates King Rama’s return. He was an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. His wife, Queen Sita, accompanies him to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile. The residents celebrated his return by lighting clay lamps and putting them in rows.
Other people believe that the Festival of Lights celebrates Lord Krishna, who defeated the Prince Narakasura to bring peace on earth. In a sense, it’s similar to the Christian holiday of Christmas, showcasing Jesus Christ was born.
In fact, Americans often use this holiday season to drive visitors to their events and go to church more. Since there are so many faiths, and each one does things differently, it’s a great way to get in your holiday light displays and drive through a park that offers this. You can see many festive lights and have a great time. Some events have music, including Christmas-themed options. The season is meant to be a family tradition, and the best thing is it happens every year.
How Is It Celebrated?
The Festival of Lights celebration lasts five days. Usually, paper lanterns or clay lamps are lit, as well as firecrackers and candles. This signifies that light broke the darkness and good prevailed over evil. It’s similar to the December holiday meaning for Christmas. This is where Jesus Christ was born. He was meant to be the messiah for the entire world and came to earth in human form to teach the Christian ways.
Though the celebration rarely happens in December, it often signifies the start of the holiday season. Winter is cold and dreary, but Christmas, Thanksgiving, and the Festival of Lights bring some fun and excitement, including music and a festive experience.
Recently, Americans have gotten in on the season. San Antonio and New York have hosted significant festivals that drew in thousands of people. In fact, the White House has a celebration every year, too.
Local traditions often have the family buying new clothes on the Friday before the experience. Cleaning is a big part of it, too. Often, Hindus go to a temple to say a prayer to Lakshmi or Ganesh. Charity is also a big part of the experience, so most people use the event to donate their time or money. This can happen through the local temple or through different charities in the area.
The day right after the Festival of Lights is when gifts are exchanged. This is similar to Christmas (Christian) and Hanukah (Jewish). Everyone checks in with their friends and family members. However, the last day of the festival is there for siblings so that they can celebrate together.
Five Famous Lighting Festivals
It’s important to understand this winter holiday and how the event is different in various cultures. Take the time to learn about it so that you can experience the season how it’s meant to be done. Though you aren’t likely to visit a temple to pray, Christians can visit a church and pray to Jesus Christ. This is just one way to create your own traditions and take part in the amazing Festival of Lights.
The first day of the festival is called Dhanteras. Most people go to a temple dedicated to Ayurveda and Dhanvantari during this season. Often, metal items and kitchen utensils are bought on this day, and a special prayer is said.
Naraka Chaturdashi happens on the second day of the Festival of Lights. Typically, early morning rituals of a religious nature are completed. Many people go to their local temple again to show appreciation. In 2020, this fell on Friday, November 13.
On the third day, the moon is celebrated. This is often the darkest day of the month, so it’s highly significant to the festival. In many parts of India, people perform ‘puja’ in official properties. The gods of that area are worshipped. There is often a huge celebration in the large cities and the center of towns. Music is played, and the traffic can be great. Cities usually put on a show and may hand out free tickets to the event. This is so that more people visit, especially tourists. You can drive your vehicle around or get out and walk the area to see all the light festival activities live.
Typically, this lights festival is like a musical show performed live, though they may be televised. After Christmas comes the American New Years’ celebration. The event is live, but it’s shown on television for those who aren’t in Times Square. The same applies to the Festival of Lights.
Sweden also celebrates the Festival of Lights. Traffic is often at a stand-still during these holidays, so the grounds are walked. People park far away so that they don’t have to sit in the car and miss the experience. Typically, the musical aspect focuses on the sounds of the region. News of where the events are to be held are shown on television, social media, and in newspapers. That way, everyone knows where to go and get the tickets.
Some locations offer drive-through lights, where you can sit in your vehicle and see the beautiful lights. Others allow people to light lanterns, which float away to signify the end of the year, though Americans and Swedes do this at the end of December.
Safety is often a concern since there are so many large celebrations. Each center has its own way of doing things, so it’s best to search for the one you want to go to. You can find out about traffic conditions and where to park your car on the grounds.
This is also for safety. The grounds are for people to walk on, and you don’t want to risk hurting someone with your vehicle.
Each center has food, games, fireworks, and fun. Most of them also feature music.
Times Square in New York
The center of New York is Times Square, and it hosts a huge event each year with various holiday light displays. Though the church doesn’t usually participate, it does welcome people to park in open lots. This is with the hope that it can get more visitors to the temple for Christmas to celebrate Jesus Christ.
Safety is a huge concern, so it’s best to search for options. You may even want to find an open temple. Visitors don’t have to be of the Indian faith. Keep the tradition going by attending church services in December for free. Christmas isn’t far behind the Festival of Lights.
Disney California Adventure Park
For a ton of fun, visit Disney Adventure Park in California. Attend temple services for free and visit church.
Visitors here can drive through and see many lights. Safety protocols are in place, so all the visitors have to follow the rules. You may park at a temple instead of driving to the parking lot. Often, the temple and church locations offer free parking for visitors of all faiths. Christmas is also a great time to see the lights.
San Antonio, Texas
Right San Antonio’s center, there’s a city-sponsored celebration of Diwali, which draws over 15,000 people a year. Safety is a huge concern, and people drive for miles around to see the excitement. Free parking is often included by a local church and temple. Though there aren’t many Indian immigrants, you can still find a temple or two. Visitors can drive through a lights display.
Things to think about
If you haven’t done so yet, you may want to search and find out what time and dates the next Festival of Lights is going to be. That way, you can make plans to attend the center of your choice and determine how bad traffic is going to be and where to park your car. News of the next event is sure to start coming out soon because people start planning for the holiday in advance.
Consider searching for a church that welcomes visitors before Christmas. They often open for the light displays in the hopes that you might visit in December to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, which most Christians celebrate through Christmas.
Drive to a different state to see the many ways to celebrate. Visitors to any other city should focus on safety when they drive. Only park where you’re asked to do so. If in a church or temple parking lot, be respectful of the properties.