Bringing light and joy to life through Diwali

October 18, 2022 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

Pictured above: Priya Parikh with her family from last year’s Diwali celebration at her home.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council of Edward-Elmhurst Health: We are DRIVEN to create a culture in which all races, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, physical abilities and socio-economic backgrounds can meet, share, learn and flourish in an accepting environment. By creating platforms and opportunities that allow us to come together, we can begin to know and understand each other. And through better understanding, we can effectively meet the needs of our diverse patients and deliver on our mission.

In her own words: written by Priya Parikh, PharmD, pharmacist application analyst with Edward-Elmhurst Health.

Diwali is one of the most important holidays in India and across the globe. It is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains. The name comes from the Sanskrit term dipvali which means "row of lights" and is commonly known as the Festival of Lights.

Diwali lasts for five days and is celebrated in many ways based on regional, religious and family traditions. This year, Diwali takes place from Oct. 22 to Oct. 26, with the main day of celebration on Oct. 24.

Diwali at its core represents the victory of good over evil. It celebrates the victory of Lord Rama over the evil King Ravana. After being exiled for 14 years along with his wife and his brother, Lord Rama was welcomed home with diyas, or clay lamps, that lit up his path back home, which is the meaning behind Festival of Lights. Diwali is also a celebration of life in which Lord Ganesh is worshipped for welfare and prosperity and the Goddess Laxmi is worshipped for wealth and good fortune.

For myself, Diwali is a very special holiday. My parents are first generation immigrants. Growing up in the 80s and 90s in the U.S., there was not much of an awareness of Diwali. But my family made the most of it and tried their best to create the same atmosphere of Diwali they had back home.

They chose to use Diwali as a time to buy special foods and gifts. We lived in the western suburbs, which at that time had very few specialty Indian stores. Thus, we’d make an annual trip to Devon Avenue in Chicago. With a large South Asian diaspora, this quaint little street gave us ample opportunities to purchase traditional Indian groceries, sweets, clothes, jewelry and new kitchenware.

We decorated our home with Christmas lights (our version of diyas) to add a festive touch to the celebrations. My mom, grandmother and aunties would spend hours in the kitchen making a feast of dishes which included snacks, appetizers, vegetables, rice, daal and desserts.

To prepare for Diwali celebrations, many people make special snacks and sweets such as fafda, mathiya, chakri, ghughra, and jalebi. Even though each of these items take a lot of time to prepare, I remember fondly how my mom, grandmother and aunties did it all with smiles and laughs.

It was so much fun having everyone together being joyful and thankful for everything we had. These are some of my best memories growing up, and it shaped who I am today: An Indian American, proud of my culture and heritage.

For my parents, being able to celebrate Diwali and feel closer to their roots was a necessary part of their lives in America. They always kept the meaning of the Diwali and worship close to their hearts as they worked hard to provide for us and assimilate into American culture. I think having the opportunity to celebrate one of their holidays that they grew up with made them feel closer to home.

HDDiversity Parikhwithparentscrop

Pictured above: Priya and her parents at a local Diwali party this year.

It is these memories and love for my culture that I am working to pass on to my own children. My husband and I love celebrating Diwali with our kids. We spend time each year teaching them the background and meaning of this special holiday. We decorate our home, wear festive clothes and gather with our family and friends to continue the special traditions that were part of our childhood. We’ve added a few more traditions such as fireworks, rangoli and painting diyas.

It warms my heart to see my children so excited to participate in Diwali festivities. I am also appreciative of the representation of Diwali outside of the South Asian community and humbled by how it has been embraced by so many as a celebration of life, family and good fortune.

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