5 Meaningful Ways to Celebrate Diwali at Home

published Oct 20, 2022
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Happy Indian family having a festive Diwali dinner together
Credit: Mila Supinskaya Glashchenko/Shutterstock.com

As a little girl, I remember visiting my family in India to celebrate Diwali, also known as “The Festival of Lights.” My mom would dress in a colorful sari, while my dad donned a crisp shirt and pants to commemorate the celebration. There were early morning calls where family and friends would exchange “Happy Diwali” greetings — I could hear the smile on their faces. During the day we gathered with friends and family to eat Diwali sweets like halwa, penda, and gulab jamun. We prayed to the deities at the local temple and at night, we watched fireworks glimmering in the sky. 

Over three decades have passed since I’ve celebrated Diwali in India, but I’ve tried to recreate some of these traditions in our home in Arizona. Here are five ways I celebrate Diwali at home. 

Dress in traditional Indian outfits. 

Every Diwali, my daughter participates in a local celebration where she dances on stage. She usually wears a new sharara, a traditional Indian dress, and performs in front of family and friends. I also wear a new sari (one I’ve shopped for months in advance) and jewelry including earrings, necklace, and bangles. The outfit is complete with a bindi, which is placed between my eyebrows. I am always struck by the variety of sari colors, the sound of traditional Indian music, and people exchanging holiday greetings with one another. It feels like past celebrations in India and my childhood hometown, where we participated in similar revelry.

Credit: Memories Over Mocha/Shutterstock.com

Make a rangoli outside.

Growing up in Dallas, my mom made rangolis, a traditional art form, on the floor of our porch. The design can be complicated or simple — a lotus, flower, or even a peacock. You make the design by using colored grains to form the outline and then filling it in with colorful sand. Every year I’d wonder what kind of design my mom would outline next and I’d helped her with the decorating. I’ve recreated this tradition with my daughter a handful of times; we make a small rangoli in the foyer area and carefully fill the design with sand. Every year, a good friend of mine sends a picture of rangoli and the intricacies of her design always impress us — it gives us ideas to brainstorm for next year. 

Cook a Diwali meal.

Part of every memorable celebration is to enjoy food associated with the holiday. Usually this means making all parts of an Indian thali, with puri, vegetables, dals, raita, and of course, sweets. Sweets could include barfi, kaju katli, poran puli, and carrot halwa. My mom spent weeks making various savory snacks and my entire family couldn’t wait to be her taste testers. One of the best feelings is eating the entire Diwali meal with my family — it’s a way to commemorate a tradition I celebrated with my parents and sister. 

Get together with friends.

During Diwali, the Indian community gathers at each other’s home or at a dance performance or temple to hug, exchange best wishes, and continue what they experienced as kids with their own children. It is the one time of a year we see everyone in their Indian outfits and come together to enjoy a meal together. We’ve participated in this tradition for the last 13 years and it has become a way to create our version of Diwali in the desert. 

Light sparklers and watch fireworks.

Fireworks in the sky are synonymous with Diwali. My childhood Diwali memories of fireworks all around and sparklers in my hand are still vivid. It seemed fitting to celebrate Diwali in this way since it represents light overcoming the dark. We continue this celebration with my family by purchasing sparklers in July and saving them until October or early November so we can keep the tradition going. We also witness fireworks at our local temple and I watch as I catch my daughter admiring the light shining in the dark sky, grateful knowing that some of these traditions, in their own versions, continue. The hope is that she will someday do the same for her family.