The 5th of November, is Diwali (actually Deepavali) , the festival of lights. Diwali is celebrated to commemorate the victory of good over evil. During Diwali, we light oil lamps(clay lamps usually) called diya. We also burst crackers, wear new clothes and share sweets.
There are many stories surrounding the festival. In the north of India, it is the day Lord Rama returned with Sita and Lakshmana to Ayodhya following his 14 year long exile in the forest after vanquishing the Rakshasa(demon) king, Ravana, thereby tilting the scales towards goodness. In the south of India, it is celebrated as the day Lord Krishna defeated Narakasura(the Asura king) in battle.
Jains and Sikhs also celebrate Diwali. It marks the attainment of moksha by Lord Mahavira and hence is a joyous occassion for the Jains. For Sikhs, it commemorates the return of Guru Har Gobind Ji to Amritsar after freeing 52 Hindu kings imprisoned in Fort Gwalior by defeating Emperor Jahangir.
So, Deepavali is celebrated in all parts of India and in Nepal also.
The habit of bursting crackers stopped once we(my sisters and me) turned twenty or so. However, we do celebrate Diwali, by waking up early, having a bath and praying to God. We get in touch with our family and wish each other.
For most people in India, Diwali is the grandest festival. Companies pay bonus during Diwali. All workers get a bonus actually (non-skilled workers). It is also the time when most families buy clothes, and in some cases, the only time when the whole family gets new clothes.
From childhood, I have seen the joy on people's face once it is September. First we have the pooja days (Navrathri). We pray to Goddess Sarasvathi, Lakshmi and Parvathi. We perform pooja for our books, asking Goddess Saraswathi, the Goddess of Learning to bless us. The next day, is Ayudha Pooja. we do pooja for all the implements we use - from the spanner and screwdriver by the electricians, to the axe-saw blade used by the carpenter, to the bus driven by the bus-driver. It is meant to signify that we hold these objects in esteem as they help in our livelihood. They are the tools which help us in our everyday life. For me, it is my books, my laptop and the stove I use in the kitchen, which help me in my everyday life. I thank that these things help me better myself and perform better. On Vijayadashami day, we pray to God and use these implements. Many children like me, started my education on this day. Most kids have their initiation(vidhyarambam) on this day. Then, a month later, it is time for Diwali. So, the festive mood that starts in September continues till Diwali every year.
I love the culture in India. There are so many festivals, reminding you and giving you the big picture. It helps you remain rooted and brings you closer with your family. It is also a time when we get holidays.........