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Diwali, also known as Deepavali or “The Festival of Lights,” is a holiday celebrated by Hindus all over the world. The holiday—which normally occurs in October or November—is one of the largest and brightest festivals in India, where over 80 percent of the population is Hindu. Not only is Diwali a chance for individuals to spend time with their loved ones, enjoy delicious sweets and attend exciting parties, but it also holds high significance in the Indian culture. There are many different reasons people celebrate, but one of the most well known reasons is to commemorate the return of Lord Ram to his home of Ayodhya after a 14-year exile.

Diwali is a bright and colorful festival. In the week leading up to the holiday, Indian homes are adorned in decorations, lights are strung up and candles—or diyas—are lit up and set up in rows. During this time individuals also take the time to clean up their homes, visit family and friends and exchange gifts. Religious ceremonies are also performed and firecrackers are set off in the streets.

In keeping up with Diwali’s tradition of holding festive parties, the Indian community in Houston held one of its own. The party, which took place on Saturday, November 21, at First Colony Hall in Sugarland, hosted Indian families from Houston, Sugar Land, Clear Lake and Friendswood as they gathered for an evening of fun, food and friends. Everyone, from newborns to the elderly, was adorned in timeless and traditional Indian outfits.

A big part of Diwali celebration is music and this one was no exception. A group of party attendees showcased their singing talents  as well as their instrumental abilities. The harmonium and the tabla (an Indian instrument which is similar to a drum) were brought out, producing time-honored Gujarati songs from India. The music was wonderful, the singing was beautiful and the audience was captivated. A delicious dinner of rice, different Indian vegetables, roti (a type of Indian flatbread) and Indian sweets followed this mini-concert.

Even though this year’s event was genuine and fun-filled, being away from India does make it hard to get the full-effect and to experience the depth of Diwali. But my parents’ efforts to bring tradition to our own celebrations instill a truly authentic experience in our home every year. Diwali is a time to right your wrongs, forgive people who have hurt you and, most importantly, show your loved ones how important they are to you. I try to do that every day, but especially during Diwali. It is important that I get to celebrate my Indian culture and I’m pleased I have a chance to do so.