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A simple script for explaining Diwali to your kids

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Did you know that more than a billion people celebrate Diwali? This Hindu festival of lights, observed on November 12 this year, is one of the world’s biggest holidays.

So whether you have South Asian family members or neighbors who celebrate, or you just want kids to understand more about the world around them, it’s a great time to teach kids about Diwali!

Here’s a script for explaining Diwali in a way that makes sense to kids and engages them — so the whole family can be aware of what’s going on during this important fall holiday.

Why is Diwali important?

You can tell your kids:

“Diwali is a national holiday in India. It is celebrated by more than a billion people!

The festival is celebrated by most Hindu people in the world. Hinduism is considered the world’s oldest major religion, and it was started in India more than 3,000 years ago.

Hindus worship many gods and goddesses. The ancient stories of these gods and goddesses inspire people to celebrate Diwali, but there are so many different religious and non-religious reasons to celebrate!

Some South Asian communities celebrate a goddess called Lakshmi during Diwali, while some celebrate the gods Rama and Sita, and others celebrate the god Krishna. But all of these stories are about good winning over evil.

So Diwali is all about celebrating light, goodness, happiness, knowledge, and prosperity. Lights of all kinds — candles, lanterns, and more — symbolize these bright, positive vibes.

Sikh and Jain communities (other religions from India) also celebrate a version of Diwali, and so do some Buddhists and non-religious Indians.

Diwali has become so widely celebrated that it’s the biggest holiday season for many South Asians!”

What happens on Diwali?

“Diwali lasts five days, and for many it marks the start of the Hindu New Year. 

To celebrate the holiday, people light earthen oil lamps, which are small clay pots decorated in beautiful patterns with a flame lit inside.

Homes and streets are decorated with bright displays of these oil lamps and candles, flowers and colorful patterns, fairy lights and other electric light displays. Some communities have fireworks, music, or dance shows.

Families gather for special meals, exchange gifts and sweets with each other, and set off firecrackers. Many people visit temples to pray and give offerings.”

Is Diwali similar to any other holidays?

“Diwali is unique, but it might remind you of many other cultures’ New Year or Lunar New Year celebrations, or even Hanukkah or Christmas, since the holiday is all about lights, candles, fireworks or firecrackers, and bright decorations. Gifts and sweet treats also make an appearance!

The cultural popularity of Diwali among South Asians makes it similar to the joyful year-end ‘holiday season’ that we have in the US. In both cases, the holiday season is celebrated very widely, including by those who don’t follow the religious aspects of the holiday.”

Fun facts about Diwali

“The city of Ayodhya in northern India broke a Guinness World Record by lighting over 1.5 million earthen lamps on its riverbank during Diwali 2022. This feat took over 22,000 volunteers to achieve!”

“The dates of Diwali shift each year depending on the position of the moon, but the holiday is usually during October or November.”

“In Nepal, a neighbor of India, the holiday is called Tihar, not Diwali.”

“On the fifth day of Diwali, called Bhai Dooj, families celebrate the special bond between sisters and brothers.”

“About 18 million Indians live outside of India, with over 4 million living in the US. So Diwali has become a major global holiday!”

“One of the largest Diwali celebrations outside of India happens every year in the city of Leicester in the UK.”

“Because Diwali is such an important cultural and religious holiday for so many South Asian Americans, New York City has declared it an official public school holiday.”

Also check out these other holiday explainers for kids:

Joanna Eng is a staff writer and digital content specialist at ParentsTogether. She lives with her wife and two kids in New York, where she loves to hike, try new foods, and check out way too many books from the library.