Celebrating Diwali in Canada used to be a challenge. Lighting the house with diyas or candles was well-near impossible in the cold weather and firecrackers were not easily available.
Until we discovered Canada Day fireworks! After that, we used to get a whole lot and stash away one half for Diwali.
But still, what is Diwali without lights?
We tried various things, but no self-respecting diya would burn outside in those wintry conditions.
Then, from a friend we got the clever idea of candles in mason jars – she used these in her garden in the summer, but what was stopping us from adopting the idea for Diwali?
Nothing, except that some years, Diwali was celebrated in November, right in the middle of a snow storm! No candle-in-a-mason jar was a match for a full-blown Canadian storm.
We were back to square one.
Until we discovered Christmas lights!
Why hadn’t we thought if this before, lamented my wife, as I strung up colourful little bulbs from the porch and around the front windows.
“This looks very festive. Finally, our house will be lit up for Diwali!” she said happily.
And so we became the first people in our neighbourhood to put up Christmas lights each year, way before anyone was thinking of Christmas decorations. We’d put them up for Diwali and then just leave them in place for Christmas. This way, we also escaped the frozen fingers that most neighbours grumbled about each year as they struggled to put up their lights in subzero temperatures.
Everything worked well until the year Diwali fell right before Halloween.
Our porch was decorated with Diwali/Christmas lights and we also had a skeleton hanging by the door for good measure.
Most people were too polite to ask what we thought we were celebrating, but one little boy had no such qualms.
“Mom! Why do they have Christmas lights for Halloween?” he asked in a loud, clear voice.
I tried explaining the whole Diwali lights concept, but there were other children waiting for their candy and I don’t think much of what I said registered with the mother of the child.
She gave me an embarrassed smile, tried to shush him and moved away quickly so as not to block the other kids.
“It must be an Indian custom, honey,” I heard her say, as they walked down the driveway.
– Vaibhav Gupta
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