Light up the darkness

Celebrate Dawali, the Indian festival of lights, Nov. 1-5

Traditional Indian sand designs called rangoli and lights called diyas will appear at Hanover Park mom Jignasa Patel’s home early next month. A team effort between Patel and her 4-year-old daughter, Mansi, the decorations are part of the family’s celebration of Dawali (also called Divali or Dipavali). This five-day Hindu holiday, known as the festival of lights, runs Nov. 1 to 5 this year. Local Indian families say it’s a way for them to celebrate their ethnic heritage with their kids—and the triumph of good over evil.

Dawali celebrates the legendary return of a good, ancient king named Lord Rama after 14 years of exile. Dawali also celebrates Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.

Hoffman Estates mom Aditie Vaid tells that story to her kids, Pranit, 4, and Aniket, 1, every year. "Good wins over evil," she says. "It’s a reminder to us to keep lighting the goodness in us each year."

To celebrate the king’s return, many families light oil lamps or candles called diyas.

"It’s so dark outside," Vaid says, since the holiday falls near the winter solstice in India, the darkest day of the year. "Dawali really brightens up that dark space."

In Delhi, India, where Vaid grew up, fireworks brighten the night sky during Dawali. Since they can’t set off private fireworks in Illinois, Vaid’s family hoards sparklers from the Fourth of July for her kids to use during Dawali.

While some families, such as Vaid’s, celebrate with fireworks and feasts, others dance, sing or worship Hindu gods. But no matter how they celebrate, Dawali is a unifying event for the Hindu community—something Hindus across India and throughout the world have in common, says Stuart Sarbacker, a religion lecturer at Northwestern University.

And whether it means letting the kids watch her make halwa (a special Dawali sweet), letting them light the lamps, taking them to feasts with friends and relatives or helping them craft rangoli designs, it’s for the kids. "I try to involve them," Vaid says.

Here are some places where you can experience Dawali and the culture it represents:

 India on Devon, the 2500 block of West Devon Avenue (, has many restaurants and boutiques from India and Pakistan.

 The Schaumburg Township District Library, 130 S. Roselle Rd., Schaumburg, will have some Indian moms teach kids and parents about the holiday. Call (847) 985-4000 or visit for date and time.

 The Hindu Temple of Greater Chicago, 10915 Lemont Rd., Lemont, will have fireworks when it gets dark on Nov. 5. Call (630) 972-0300 or visit

Diana Oleszczuk


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