Diwali vs. Halloween

It’s that time of the year again. That magical time. Diwali. The festival of lights, lots of delicious food (both, sweet and savory), traditions, parties, poojas, calling your loved ones in India. Wait a minute, “calling your loved ones in India?” Where are you celebrating? America, you say. Isn’t Diwali very similar to Halloween? You get lots of sweets; you dress up in attire that you would not usually wear. Think about it. They are a lot alike, don’t you think? Well, you couldn’t be more wrong. So what are the differences between the two, and what are the differences between Diwali in America and Diwali in India?

Diwali vs. Halloween:

According to Wikipedia, Halloween is a celebration observed on the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day. Halloween activities include trick-or-treating, attending Halloween costume parties, decorating, carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns, lighting bonfires, apple bobbing and divination games, playing pranks, visiting haunted attractions, telling scary stories and watching horror films. In many parts of the world, the Christian religious observances of All Hallows’ Eve, including attending church services and lighting candles on the graves of the dead.

Whereas according to the same source, Diwali is one of the major festivals of Hinduism, it spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair. Its celebration includes millions of lights shining on housetops, outside doors and windows, around temples and other buildings in the communities and countries where it is observed.

Before Diwali night, people clean, renovate, and decorate their homes and offices. On Diwali night, people dress up in new clothes or their best outfit, light up diyas (lamps and candles) inside and outside their home, participate in family pooja (prayers) typically to Lakshmi — the goddess of fertility and prosperity. After the pooja, 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.

There are no fireworks in Halloween. They are reserved for The 4th of July. In Halloween, there is trick-or-treating from door-to-door, whereas, in Diwali, there are parties where the host invites their friends for a scrumptious Diwali dinner. In Halloween, one wears a “costume,” whereas, in Diwali, one dresses up in Indian attire, albeit, a non-Indian may mistake it as a costume.

Diwali in India vs. Diwali in America:

Diwali Stamp released by USPS

There is a huge difference. The first generation Indians, who grew up in India, try to recreate the same magical atmosphere, taking a walk down the memory lane. One is immersed in Diwali celebrations in India. Everyone around them is in a festive mood. But not in America. One just celebrates Diwali in the confines of their homes. Once they step outside, there are no celebrations. Most likely, one’s neighbor is a non-Indian and doesn’t have a clue about Diwali. Even if he or she knows about it, he doesn’t know how to celebrate it and may hesitate to partake.

This year, Diwali and Halloween are just one day apart (30th and 31st). So close together, yet, so far apart.

So, there is nothing common between these two festivals. There are more commonalities between Diwali and Christmas. Lots of decorations, gift exchanges, yummy food, a very festive atmosphere all around.

I guess that’s why Indians enjoy Christmas more than Halloween.

About me: I’ve written two books, India Was One and Beyond The Milky Way.

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