Today, millions of Hindus, Jains and Sikhs all over the world will celebrate Deepavali or Diwali. Deepavali (Deepa means light and Avali means row of lights) is also known as the festival of lights.
On Diwali day, most people start the day by going to temples (place of prayer) to seek blessings. After that they visit friends and family, exchanging gifts and Indian sweets.
Since buying gold jewelry is considered very auspicious during this time, the women all dressed in their finest Indian attire, often head to the jewelers in the afternoon.
At night the skies in India light up with colorful firework displays. However, these are not professional displays like the ones we see in the United States, but just normal families lighting up their own fireworks. The streets are ablaze with colors - with the young ones swirling their sparklers, while the older ones light up louder and more powerful fireworks. The commotion does not end until everyone is done with their last firecracker! The legend behind Diwali is different in different parts of India. While the stories may differ, they all celebrate the triumph of good over evil!
Diwali also marks the end of the year of some Indians. Tomorrow they will celebrate the first day of the year 2066. That is because the lunar Hindu calendar, is 57 years ahead of the Christian calendar, which is the conventional one followed the rest of the world.
For kids living in India, Diwali is the equivalent of Christmas in the USA. They get a week's vacation from school, receive gifts from their parents and other relatives (no Santa Claus however!), eat great food and get to play with sparklers and fireworks. Sounds fun doesn't it?
Sources: About.com, BBCnews.com