In the past few years I have had the privilege of witnessing first hand what happens in an Indian home during Deepavali. Also known as the festival of lights, this special day in the Hindu calendar brings family and food together. Sounds familiar doesn’t it?
Weeks of prep is on the way with the decoration of the house, including the making of the kolam (decorative rice art), the prepping of cookies and savory snacks like muruku. Indian families give up meat for a month and for some, just a few days. The night before Deepavali, the families honor those who have past and the food that is given as offerings usually consist of the food that they savor the most (late grandparents and ancestors favorite dishes in real life). Post prayers and showing respect to the ancestors is continued with a feast of food and drink. Then the henna comes out and all the ladies sit hand and foot for decorative henna to be drawn onto their skin.
Just like any Malaysian festivity, everyone dresses in their newly bought colorful clothes. During Deepavali, it all about the newest trending saris and lenghas, jewels, bangles and pin flowers in their hair. The whole occasion is like one big bollywood party exploding around the whole house with yards and yards of beautiful cloth being wrapped around bodies of young and old women of all look extremely devine in their new festive clothes. Breakfast usually consists of Vadee and tosai with sambar (coconut sambal) made by a few hands in the kitchens. Everyone pitches in which makes it really special.
Once everyone is ready, families are packed into cars and a convoy brings them all to the nearest temple. The rest of the morning is usually spent at the temple. There they are blessed by the priest and given sweet ladu or Indian candy to start the day with (sounds a bit like my Chinese New year story). After which most of them come home to a busy kitchen and the smells of 10000 spices. The array of food can come in all shapes and forms, be it chicken vindaloo, mutton curry, dhal, fish curry, vegetable curry. As you would imagine, the calm the stomach yogurt is always present in some form which helps keep your stomach and you inured cooled in the curry feast. All of the indian cakes, cookies and savory nibbles are placed in lovely glass jars for people to savor whilst they wait for their turn to sit at the dining table to indulge in the feast. TRUST ME when I say this, the kitchen never stops cooking on Deepavali day. From personal experience I was on my feet and cooked over 20 dishes on my first ever Deepavali. The aunties got a swift that I could cook, and put me straight to work but my gosh! it was the most beautiful and knowledgable experience ever.
A few hours later, like any other festivities, friends start coming in and more food is brought out to share amongst loved ones. In any traditional format, there will be the occasional ‘dead body’ (aka uncles passed out on the couches) because to be honest, they have this tradition down pack and I don’t Blame them. EAT, SLEEP, CHAT, REPEAT.
Making way into the late afternoon we witness the smaller children playing outside and burning off the sugar from all the cookie jars (lets face it it will all be empty by now) and when the moon light shines, out comes the fireworks. All big and small for all to enjoy. After all what else is there to do but to wonder up in the sky during the festival of lights.
May all of you have a blessed Deepavali.