Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, lasts for five days and this year it falls on Thursday, 23 October, 2014.
Each day holds a special significance and there are different prayers held in their honour. The first day, Dhanteras, is when most Indian businesses begin their financial year; then it’s Small Diwali, where you start prepping for the big day. After that comes Diwali, the big daddy of celebrations when families worship Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth. The fourth day is the Indian New Year followed by Bhai Dhooj, during which the brother and sister relationship is celebrated. The common factor amongst all these days is spending time with your family and loved ones and rejoicing with lots of good food, presents and celebrating good over evil!
To prep for Diwali most families start with autumn cleaning to welcome Goddess Lakshmi into their homes. Lakshmi is in some ways equivalent to Saint Nicholas in Christian cultures – visiting every home on Diwali Day and blessing each home with the gifts of health, wealth and happiness. For the five days of the festival, you light up your house with diyas (earthen lamps) and enjoy plenty of Indian sweets at home, as you never know when your divine visitor will arrive! So when you start smelling delicious Indian goodies being prepared in the kitchen, you know that “D-Day” is coming!
Each family has their own traditions; ours is to cosy up in front of a Bollywood movie after a hearty meal. Follow our list below and maybe you can create your own Diwali traditions! But plan wisely – tradition says that whatever you are doing on the first day of the New Year is an indication of how you’ll spend the next 12 months!
Food and Indian festivals go hand-in-hand… if food isn’t the first thing that springs to mind when Diwali is mentioned, it must surely be the second! So start prepping for the festivities by ordering some special homemade sweets and savouries from any of our favourite stores below.
With more than 55 years of cooking experience, you know that Geeta knows what she’s doing! Don’t miss out on ordering the famous Gulab Jamun (a sweet donut/dumpling, served with syrup) or Dhokla (a steamed gram flour snack) from the excellent menu for just $5 per piece. There is a minimum order value required, so stock up!
Geeta’s Kitchen, 2368 6997, www.facebook.com/geetakitchen
The Rose Petal Cakery
If Indian sweets are a little too sweet for your taste, try Rose Petal Cakery’s beautiful cookies, featuring henna-inspired designs. They also offer a twist on the traditional mithai, or sweets; the chocolate-layered mithai is available upon special request from Anoushka and is worth every calorie!
The Rose Petal Cakery, 6012 0392, www.facebook.com/rosepetalcakery
Citrus Sweets, run by Hema Sakhrani, has got some Diwali-themed cakes, cupcakes and cake pops on offer. They’ve got vegetarian options, too. Check out our review of their cakes here.
Citrus Sweets, call 5199 4774, email email@example.com, www.citrussweets.com
Check out the mixed mithai boxes that are available from most Indian restaurants including Bombay Dreams and Gaylord.
An online one–stop shop for mithai, diyas, coconuts and thalis (selection plates), all of which can be delivered right to your doorstep!
If you prefer your Diwali dining out of the home, here are just a few of our favourites; Bombay Dreams, Jashan, Ista, Gaylord, The Great Indian Kebab Factory and one of my personal favourites, the Michelin-starred Ho Hin Curry House.
Uniting the family during prayers is a crucial aspect of the Diwali celebrations. Prayers take place at home or in the workplace, and no Diwali is complete without a visit to the temple. In Hong Kong we are lucky to have a couple of great options on either side of the harbour, so swing by the Hindu temple in Happy Valley, or the Kowloon Hindu temple in Tsim Sha Tsui for Diwali prayers all day long on Thursday, 28 October.
Hong Kong Hindu Temple, 1B Wong Nai Chong Road, Happy Valley, Hong Kong, 2572 5284. (Opposite Happy Valley racecourse, next to the HK Sanatorium Hospital).
Kowloon Hindu Temple, 2/F, Carnarvon Mansion, 8-12 Carnarvon Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, 2572 5284
You can always make the trek up to the infamous Chungking Mansions, or its sister building Mirador Mansion to get your own diyas, but if that proves too much of a mission, we can always depend on The Candle Company to stock up on the largest selection of candles!
The Candle Company, G/F, 11 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, Hong Kong, 2545 0099, www.candles.hk
Chungking Mansions, 36-44 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Mirador Mansion, 54-64 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Image sourced via Tabla HK
Now that we have checked off food, décor and the spiritual side of Diwali, let’s talk about what to wear! Since you’ve already made a dent in your wallet for the rest of your preparation, you may as well carry on and find the perfect Indian dress!
We are certainly not short of options in Hong Kong, so start your search at Sanskrit, Raja Luxe Fashions, Tabla or Fine N’ Rhine. Be prepared to be dazzled by the collection of beautiful saris, lehengas and kurtas in rainbow shades. If you want something less traditional, one website I personally love is Pernia’s Pop-up Shop. I guarantee you won’t leave this website without something in your basket!
Sanskrit, G/F, 48 Lyndhurst Terrace, Soho, Central, Hong Kong, 2545 2088, www.sanskrit.com.hk
Raja Luxe, 2/F, Cammer Commercial Building, 30-32 Cameron Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon; Tel: 2311 5612, www.raja-fashions.com/rajaluxe
Fine N’ Rhine, 2/F, V-Plus, 68-70 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong, 3118 7338 and Flat B, 3/F, Lyton Building, 42 Mody Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong, 2721 8166, finenrhine.com
Tabla, M31, Princes Building, Central, Hong Kong, 2525 5590, www.tabla.hk
So now we’re all ready to celebrate the festival of lights! Happy Diwali, girls (or as I prefer to say… happy eating!).
Image #2 via Shutterstock, Image #3 from Isaac Wong via Wikimedia Commons, Image #4 via Shutterstock