With coffee shops now selling festive drinks and Christmas music already playing on the radio, many people think of Thanksgiving or Christmas when it comes to this time of year.
But, one of the first holidays this season is actually Diwali, which students at Seton Hall celebrated on Nov. 14.
“Diwali is a festival of lights, signifying peace, prosperity and good fortune for the upcoming year,” Sanjana Patel, a freshman nursing major, said. “This is simply done by lighting up and decorating homes with pretty flowers and decorations.”
According to the SHU South Asian Student Association (SASA), Diwali has many different histories and meanings depending on one’s religious beliefs or which South Asian country one is from. Despite the differences, Velu Krishnan, a sophomore biology major and treasurer of the club, said that “the general history of the holiday is a celebration of good over evil and light overcoming darkness.”
The SASA executive board explained that people celebrate Diwali in a variety of ways.
“One of the most common things you will see are people decorating their homes with diyas (lamps) and rangoli (art with colored rice, colored sand and flower petals),” Krishnan said. “People also get together to worship, light off fireworks, eat great food and generally celebrate.”
Last year, the SASA had a Diwali celebration at the University Center in the Main Lounge, which they described as their “biggest event of the fall semester.” Students dressed up in South Asian attire, ate traditional food and enjoyed time with their friends.
“We also had special performances, including a dance performance from SHUSaba, the SHU South Asian Fusion Dance Team, and a drum performance with the tabla, a DJ and lots of dancing,” Juliet Nangini, a sophomore diplomacy and modern languages major and historian/PR person of the club, said.
Nagini explained that the club now has to find different ways to celebrate due to COVID-19. Because the club could not hold its large Diwali celebration, Nangini said it hosted a “SASA Paint & Acquaint” instead.
“…we provided painting kits that included painting tools, a diya, [which is] an oil lamp made of clay, that members could paint in preparation for Diwali,” Nangini said.
The SASA executive board described the day as “very upbeat and happy” and a wonderful time for being with loved ones.
“We hope that our SASA family and others who celebrate Diwali do so safely this year and avoid large gatherings while wearing masks and observing social distancing,” Nangini said.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has brought upon uncertainty, Patel noted that holding onto traditional celebrations gives a sense of normalcy and joy during these tumultuous times. Patel explained that despite the current restrictions that have altered the overall community aspect of the holiday, these restrictions have not completely ruined the spirit of Diwali.
Patel said, “We’re keeping it really limited, but we’re all getting together for a full day of just fun to relax and simply hang out.”
Dareen Abukwaik can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.