Nov 9, 2023 - Things to Do

What to know about Diwali and how to celebrate in Seattle

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Diwali or Deepavali, a holiday celebration that is becoming more widely known in the U.S., starts Sunday.

Why it matters: The religious holiday, also known as the Festival of Lights, is celebrated by more than 4 million people in the U.S. and 1 billion worldwide.

The latest: In April, Pennsylvania became the first U.S. state to make Diwali an official state holiday.

  • New York City followed suit in June, recognizing Diwali as a school holiday.

Between the lines: Diwali is a time to celebrate life and good conquering evil.

  • Diwali isn't celebrated every Nov. 12 — it is synchronized with the lunar calendar and falls in October or November.

Here are a few places in Seattle where Diwali is being celebrated:

  • Diwali: Lights of India will be noon-6pm Saturday at the Armory Food & Event Hall at Seattle Center. Admission is free.
  • Diwali: South Asian Festival of Lights for kids at the Burke Museum, 11am-noon Sunday. Included in the cost of admission.
  • Bollywood Nights at Julia's on Broadway starts at 9pm Saturday and is a big party for Desi LGBTQ+ & Allies to celebrate. Tickets begin at $15.
  • The Bhangra dance group Rhythms of India will be at the East Shore Unitarian Church in Bellevue on Sunday, 10:30-11:30am, to teach congregants dance moves and celebrate in style. There is no charge.

Context: In many Hindu communities, Diwali celebrates the return of Prince Rama of Ayodhya; his wife, Sita; and his brother, Lakshman, after 14 years of exile.

  • Prince Rama is considered the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the embodiment of dharma (or righteousness) and Sita is the incarnation of Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity and wealth.
  • Some Hindus recognize Diwali as the day Krishna defeated the demon king, Narakasura.

For non-Hindu communities like the Jain, Diwali marks the day Lord Mahavira attained nirvana, or spiritual awakening. In Sikhism, it honors the day that Guru Hargobind was freed from imprisonment. Buddhists also observe Diwali.

Diwali is celebrated over five days, each day holding a different significance, per the Hindu American Foundation.

  • Day 1: People clean their homes and make rangolis or kolam — colored patterns on the floor — with powders, flowers, rice or sand. This day is also used to shop and make both sweet and savory treats.
  • Day 2: Called small Diwali, the day is spent decorating homes with rangoli. Clay lamps are put on display.
  • Day 3: People put on new clothes and perform a worship service called puja at the temple. Lamps called diyas are lit, and family and friends come together to share food and light fireworks.
  • Day 4: The first day of the new year, celebrated by exchanging gifts.
  • Day 5: Honors the bonds between siblings.

What's next: As Diwali continues to become more widely known in the U.S., it could win more official recognition or even become a federally recognized holiday.


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