(CNN) – Diwali, one of the most important festivals in India, started on Thursday with the main festivals on Saturday 13th November.
Every year Hindus, Sikhs and Jains around the world celebrate Diwali. The festival symbolizes new beginnings and the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness.
The celebrations typically last five days and include meeting family members, sharing delicious food, watching spectacular fireworks, and visiting temples.
Streets, houses, shops and public buildings are adorned with small clay oil lamps called “diyas” that give them a warm, festive glow.
This part of the festival pays tribute to the Hindu god Lord Rama and the legend of his return to his kingdom after fourteen years in exile. Light symbolizes purity, happiness and strength.
Hindus in cities and villages around the world also believe that during Diwali, the Hindu goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, will visit their homes if they are lit, clean, and beautifully decorated.
Lukshmi puja, which includes a prayer ritual, is also an important part of the Hindu religion. It is a time to give thanks and pray for a good harvest.
But with the coronavirus pandemic continuing to hold back plans for mass gatherings and with many countries still under lockdown, this year’s Diwali will be very different for many.
Experts have also warned that gathering in groups to celebrate Diwali could lead to a surge in coronavirus cases, particularly in the Indian capital, where infections are already on the rise, compounded by India’s entry into the annual air pollution season.
This is how the 2020 festival will be celebrated worldwide.
“It feels very different”
In a normal year, Chadda (back row, all in black) spent Diwali with friends and family.
Courtesy of Streamline PR
Rahi Chadda, a London-based model, actor and fashion influencer, tells CNN Travel that Covid and the current English lockdown have forced him to cancel plans for his annual Diwali dinner parties, which typically cater to around thirty of his friends and family.
England is currently in the middle of a national lockdown prohibiting the mixing of households. Chadda will only be cooking for his parents this year.
“The places of worship are closed and the tradition of going to the temple isn’t really happening this year,” he explains.
Chadda usually enjoys buying fireworks and decorating his home in the run-up to Diwali.
“You don’t feel the motivation to do it this year because it’s a pandemic and it feels very different,” he says.
The context of Covid also adds another dynamic to the celebrations, adds Chadda.
“We may have a happy and safe Diwali in our homes, but there are people out there who may have recently lost a loved one to coronavirus so it might not be the happiest Diwali for them,” he says.
His 2020 celebrations will be low-key, but “we just have to cherish and celebrate the occasion for what it is,” says Chadda.
Courtesy of Streamline PR
As an influencer, Chadda realizes that he has a responsibility to celebrate Diwali safely and mindfully while his over 800,000 Instagram followers watch.
But he’s grateful to have the opportunity to celebrate, even if it’s more reserved this year.
“I am healthy and my loved ones are around me. It just makes you realize that all these years of parties and celebrations are to some extent natural for you. We just have to cherish and celebrate the occasion for what it is, and the pandemic cannot kill your mood, “he adds.
According to research by global digital payments company WorldRemit, 45% of the UK’s South Asian population had been hoping to go abroad this weekend to visit family and friends until the travel restrictions imposed by the second wave of coronavirus in the country meant people were more accurate had to look home.
Ajay Devanarayanan, 22, a student from Devon, England, tells CNN Travel that instead of meeting and partying together, his family exchanged hopeful, thoughtful messages through social media group chats.
Devanarayanan says the conversations centered on how the true essence of Diwali is finding positivity in the moment and being thankful for health and happiness. Big celebrations are not necessary; What is important is appreciating the time you spend with people who are close to you.
For those celebrating Diwali, social media and video calling are a crucial way to enable people to connect with loved ones in a Covid-safe way.
Kiran and Sonam, who run the social platform Not Your Wife, have helped connect South Asian women in the UK.
Courtesy of Kiran Hothi and Sonam Kaur
“We will all dress as usual, but jump on a huge zoom call to perform our prayers and light our candles / diyas together,” said Kiran Hothi and Sonam Kaur, who run the media platform NotYourWife, which strengthens and celebrates this Voices from South Asian women across the UK share CNN Travel via email.
“We also run an online quiz for our family and friends. For the older members of our family, we’ve made sure they are in support bubbles or that we’ve given them some serious zoom training before banning.”
“It brought us closer as a family”
Neha Sharma, left, will miss the parties this year.
Courtesy of Neha Sharma
Across the pond in the U.S., 26-year-old Neha Sharma, a dancer from Los Angeles, California, says she’ll miss the huge parties and fireworks that usually characterize her family’s Diwali celebrations, but she finds the joy in her home celebrations.
“I will celebrate the Festival of Lights at home by dressing in traditional Indian clothes, making candles, desserts, and decorating the house! And of course, FaceTime / Zoom the family.”
Saurav Dutt and a wonderful selection of food and drinks.
Courtesy of Saurav Dutt
LA-based Saurav Dutt got creative with his video calling celebrations.
Family members send each other prescriptions in advance, he says, and they will reveal their efforts during the call.
“We’re also organizing a special singing game called Antakshari in which you’re in teams, as well as a Bollywood quiz that I wrote,” says Dutt, journalist and author.
“That works surprisingly well with Zoom. The children in the families have also made rangoli drawings that will be judged after the phone call. We also connect with a specific family in India who will be throwing fireworks in their large garden.”
In Canada, Smita Galbraith, who works as a citizen representative in British Columbia, sees Diwali as the beginning of the new year and a time for a fresh start. This year is no different, but in other ways the celebrations feel different.
“Plans have definitely changed,” she told CNN Travel. “We usually party with sweets and savory snacks shared between our family and friends. We go to our friends house and light sparklers, and so do my kids and I go to the temple and light diyas and do some fun rangoli -Designs in front of our house. “
This year Galbraith just celebrated with her immediate family. She made her own snacks and sweets and taught her daughter how to make them.
This has its own joys.
“My friends have shared videos / pictures on WhatsApp and we all inspire each other to create new foods. We will also use sparklers in our garden and light diyas around our house!”
For his compatriot Amal Dave, who works at the Royal Bank of Canada in Toronto, Diwali always started cleaning his house.
“Normally I wouldn’t use the terms ‘partying’ and ‘cleaning’ in the same sentence, but with Diwali it symbolizes new beginnings and a new beginning,” he says.
This year he also welcomes video calls and virtual greetings.
“We usually went to the temple here for Diwali puja, but that was not possible due to the current situation,” he says. “Instead, my mother did puja at home and celebrated virtually with the rest of our family.
For Dave, past Diwalis were also associated with visits to relatives in India and major celebrations. But he says some of the smaller-scale substitutions were just as special.
His family usually buys and enjoys a lot of sweet treats, but this year they made the treats at home.
“”[It] It turned out to be an even better experience, “says Dave.” It brought us closer as a family as we could spend more time together. “
Naomi Canton contributed to this article.