One of the joys of living in an international community is that we get to share each other’s festivals. Living in Beijing it’s hard to miss not only Chinese holidays like Lunar New Year and the Mid-Autumn Festival, but western ones like Christmas and Halloween too. However, you may not be aware that this week marks the biggest event of the year for over a billion people.
Diwali, the Festival of Light, is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and some Buddhists. To find out more, we talked to Laxman Hemnani, owner of popular Indian restaurant chain Ganges.
“It’s a five-day festival,” Hemnani said, “celebrated on the same scale as Chinese New Year. One of the main days is on Wednesday, when Laxmi, goddess of wealth and prosperity, is worshipped with firecrackers at night.”
It’s a time for families to come together, Hemnani told us.
“Married brothers and sisters bring their own kids to their parents’ house, and the whole family assemble and have a traditional meal.”
Preparing and sharing food is central to the celebration.
“The younger kids or teenage girls and boys learn how to make traditional sweets, and at each home, there is a lovely smell of sweets and savory snacks being made. Even neighbors send sweets to each other.”
And of course, like Christmas or CNY, presents play an important part.
“Diwali gifting is a big business,” Hemnani said. “Parents give to their children, brothers give to sisters, friends give each other gifts, and so on. Mostly the older gives to the younger. Among middle-class families, it’s traditionally clothes, sarees or shirts, but more recently it’s mobile phones! The richer class indulge in gold ornaments. Friday is the last day, Bhai Dooj, when brothers and sisters visit each other, the sister gets a gift, usually, cash or gold, the most expensive the brother can afford!”
This Friday, Hemnani is inviting everyone to join him at Ganges’ Wudaokou branch to celebrate the last day of the festival. The event will feature music and dancing, a buffet dinner, and sweets specially prepared by the chef who makes desserts for all six Ganges restaurants, Mr. Pappu Singh from Agra in northern India.
“Everyone is welcome,” Hemnani said, “of all faiths.”
Let’s Celebrate Diwali Festival, Nov 9
All ages. RMB 88. 6pm. 6F 02-01 U-Center, 28 Chengfu Lu, Wudaokou District. (188 0128 5371). www.ganges-restaurant.com/en/. 海淀区成府路28号海淀优盛大厦 6F 02-01.
If you can’t make it on Friday, Punjabi on Lucky Street are also holding a celebration, on Saturday, November 10. They’re offering Bollywood beats, free-flow drinks, and a special deal for teachers and students.
Celebrate Diwali at Punjabi, Nov 10
All ages. RMB 150 (in advance), RMB 200 (on the door). 7pm. 1-30 Lucky Street, Chaoyang Gongyuan Xi Lu, Chaoyang District. (5867 0221) www.punjabichina.com. 朝阳区朝阳公园西路 好运街1-30号.
To all our friends celebrating the Festival of Lights, beijingkids would like to say: “Diwali ki Shubh Kamnayen!”
Photo: dhondusaxena via Wikimedia Commons