What Is It About The Holidays That Make you Miss Home?

MY VIEWS | | October 18, 2009 at 8:06 pm


Yesterday was Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. You may have never heard about it and I certainly would not blame you. Heck if it was not for Facebook and connected to friends and family back home I may have forgotten it. That is pretty sad, isn’t it? It used to be a day we looked forward with ardent fervor. Since it is tantamount to the commercialism of Christmas back home (South Africa) you are constantly reminded of it. Sure, it does not compare with the week long festivities in India, but living in Durban every store was filled with all the ingredients to cook up a storm.

The quirky outcome of Apartheid meant I lived surrounded by “Indians” and you were noted to be that even though your grandparents were born in South Africa itself. This also meant a high intensity of each festival, and I mean each festival so we celebrated Eid and Christmas with our community. I can recall making delicacies weeks in advance so much so that by the time you could eat them you were ill from looking at them. Funny thing growing as a minority in a “western” world meant the cooking consisted of a marriage of east and west.

Then came pondering the traditional wear for the day, ensuring it was brighter and shinier than ever. This was the day to spare no  extravagance. The balmy Durban weather was not strong enough to ward off wearing all the beads and baubles. Cleaning the entire home was my least liked memory. The entire day was spent visiting relatives, friends and neighbors with containers of eats and more. Everyone trying their best to outdo each other with the best arrangement. Man, my tummy growls just by thinking of all of the snacks that sit in the kitchen and is eaten during the week.

Then night arrives and prayer begins and then continues by lighting little clay lamps which soon bedeck every room and outline the outside home and pathways. The brave amongst us will also put them in various patterns in the front yard.  I hated being charged with keeping the flames burning as it was sure to take the entire night. The entire neighborhood looked the mos beautiful sight. The final touch is the firework displays. Although you literally see money burning before your eyes it is the most exciting part of the day. Little ones are warded off to keep to little sparklers for fireworks, thought to be safer but every kid waited to one day play with the big “one”.

Sigh, maybe one day I will be able to see it again. Maybe one day my children would be able to embrace the culture I once knew. Maybe one day they will do a craft for Diwali at school. Until then I consoled myself with sharing the story of Diwali this year. You can find the story (and variations of it) on the web, but here is a simple one. Diwali, or rather Deepavali means a row of lights (Deepak = light and vali = row). Basically a king’s son was sent into exile for 14 years to the forest due to tricked promise the king made. After fighting evil in the forest after the 14 years are passed Lord Ram returns home and to help light the way home people lit clay lamps,  symbolically it is lighting the way for “god” to enter your home and is the ultimate celebration of Good triumphing Evil.

So there, that was probably more than you needed to know or care but I figured this was my tribute to a Diwali I once knew and am in hope to see again.

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