Diwali — India’s Festival of Lights — is celebrated by Hindus worldwide, and often by Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists, too. The holiday is increasingly popular in the United States, where the traditional diya (clay lamp) symbolizing the triumph of good over evil is seen from coast to coast.
California’s Sejal Patel Daswani told NBC News that her children celebrate Diwali each year, just as she did when she was growing up.
Hindus in America now number 2.23 million, according to the Pew Research Center. Hinduism and Buddhism are the fourth-largest faith groups in the U.S. (behind Christianity, Judaism and Islam). So it’s no surprise that Diwali observance is on the rise in the U.S., with Hindu temples and cultural centers hosting parties.
The timing of the five-day festival, marking the Hindu New Year, depends on the position of the moon. While Diwali 2016 begins October 30 in India, it starts a day earlier in North America.
The White House has hosted Diwali celebrations since 2003, and many U.S. museums offer programs. The Seattle Art Museum throws a Diwali Ball each year, where revelers dance to Bollywood music, adorn themselves with henna and visit fortune tellers. (This last activity is a nod to the Diwali custom of welcoming Lakshmi, the goddess of happiness and good fortune.)
Diwali fireworks are displayed in New York’s Times Square, and towns throughout the New York/New Jersey area organize parades and Diwali-themed carnivals.
Cary, North Carolina, displays Indian textiles. The Little India district of Artesia, California, holds a fashion show.
The U.S. Postal Service recently issued a Diwali postage stamp, the first U.S. stamp honoring a Hindu holiday. Indian Americans campaigned for the stamp, petitioning the Postal Service with some 400,000 online signatures in support of the idea.
Planning to visit the U.S. during Diwali? It’s easy to find Diwali events across the country, and many celebrations are free.