Diwali

Diwali greetings! May you find the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance! Actually, being Christian and not being an expert in Hinduism, I don’t know much about the festival. If you look at a calendar of religious festivals, it will probably show today, November 14, as the day of Diwali or Deepavali. For some of those who actively practice Hinduism, today is the middle day of a five-day festival during which lamps and other lights are displayed both inside and outside of the home. Homes are decorated, fireworks are lighted, and there are gifts, sweets and feasting. Prayers are offered. The date moves around our calendar, because the timing is based on the Hindu Lunisolar calendar. It is nearly as late as it can fall on our calendar, where it occurs between mid-October and mid-November each year.

In India, it is common for those who follow other religions to observe at least some of the traditions of Diwali. Muslims and Christians have had modified celebrations and recognitions for many years.

I didn’t know about Diwali, other than a brief account read in a book, before I moved to South Dakota. In Rapid City, international students at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology hosted a Diwali festival that included special foods and invited participation of the community. Through a special relationship that we had with an Indian-American student, we learned more about the celebration when he made a presentation on it at one of the adult forums in our church.

With the switch from Daylight Savings time a couple of weeks ago and our switch to a new time zone the day before yesterday, a move farther north, and our move to a new position within the time zone, we are aware of the cycles of light and dark, but we haven’t yet adjusted. Actually, the change isn’t as dramatic as it seems. Sunset here is only four minutes later than in Rapid City. Sunrise, however, is 29 minutes later, making the day 25 minutes shorter here than in our previous home at this time of the year. Since today is our first full day in our new home, we don’t even know what that means, other than that we will be doing a few more things in the dark than usual.

Religious festivals of light all share an awareness of the cycles of the year. Our Christian festival, Epiphany, begins on January 6. With the winter solstice on December 21, shortly before Christmas, Epiphany falls when we begin to be aware of the lengthening of days after an autumn of days getting shorter in the northern hemisphere. Diwali occurs earlier, but at a time when people on the northern half of the globe are aware that the days are getting shorter.

Part of the celebration of Diwali in India is housecleaning and decorating. We should fit right in. We have 12 days to get unpacked and our house organized enough to host a family Thanksgiving festival. And in those 12 days we will need to devote some time to cooking and baking and getting everything ready.

Last evening we were relaxing in our living room with a fire in the fireplace and reflecting on where we are in this process. Sorting and moving took longer than we expected, but it feels like we have been working hard every day to reach this goal. While we gave ourselves the gift of a relaxing evening, we were making lists of things to do in the next few days in order to settle into our new home. It is a good thing we are retired. I don’t know if we would have enough energy to work and to get all of the home chores done.

And, in this new place, there are other adjustments. The lawn needs to be mowed and there are leaves to rake. After 25 years of living in a place with no deciduous trees, we have leaves to rake. They look like they’ll rake easier than pine needles, however. And the growing season for grass is much longer here. I don’t think I’ll have to mow every week at this time of the year, but the lawn is lush and green. I’m used to living in a place where the snow covers up the undone yard work and we can live with the illusion that we’re caught up as long as the driveway is shoveled.

Adjusting to the changes, however, is part of the excitement of a move. We’re on a new adventure in life and at the start of a new chapter in our story.

So it makes sense to be aware of dark and light, good and evil, knowledge and ignorance. A new season in our life is also a new season in the story of our nation with the election of a new president in the midst of a world-wide health crisis. The decisions of the transition team have immediate and significant impact on the lives of the people of this country. We’ll need all of the knowledge of all of our best scientists to cope with the rapidly rising number of victims of the disease. We will each need to bring all that is good within us to the process as we provide care and understanding to our fellow citizens.

We’ve never gone in for lots of outdoor decorations at our home. When all of our neighbors had their homes brightly decorated with holiday lights, we chose a more subdued and less showy celebration. And I don’t think I’ll be climbing up on this rental house to string lights this year, either. But the lights and warmth of this home will be an important part of our celebrations this year. As the flicker of the fireplace added warmth and light to our evening last night, we began to settle and relax into new ways of living.

We Christians believe that praying is always a good thing, so we are eager to pray with others whenever invited. May our prayers this day be added to those of our Hindu sisters and brothers. Happy Diwali!

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!