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Today, millions of Hindus, Jains and Sikhs all over the world are celebrating Diwali. Also known as Deepavali or the Festival of Lights, it is one of the most eagerly awaited and widely celebrated Indian festivals.
The day begins with most people visiting the temple to obtain blessings from the Hindu gods. Following that, they visit friends and family and exchange gifts and Indian sweets. Since buying gold jewelry is considered very auspicious on this day, the women dress in their finest Indian attire and head to the jewelers in the afternoon.
At night, the houses in India are lit up with diyas (small oil lamps) and the skies, with colorful fireworks. What makes it fun is that these are not professional displays - Instead, everyone creates their own show by lighting up their favorite crackers. The young ones stick to the sparklers, while the older ones brave it out with the louder, more powerful fireworks. The commotion continues late into the night until the very last firecracker has exploded.
The significance behind Diwali varies amongst the different states of India. While the stories may differ, they all celebrate the triumph of good over evil! For some Hindus, Diwali also marks the end of the calendar year. Tomorrow, they will celebrate the first day of the year 2069. That is because the Vikram Samvat Hindu calendar, which is based on the lunar cycle, is 57 years ahead of the conventional Christian calendar, that we all follow.
For kids living in India, Diwali is the equivalent of Christmas in the western countries. They get a week's vacation from school, receive gifts from their parents and other relatives (no Santa Claus however!), wear beautiful clothes, eat great food and, get to play with sparklers and fireworks. Sounds fun doesn't it?
Sources: About.com, BBCnews.com