Happy Diwali: Q & A with Hina
This week, people across the world have been gathering with their families and friends to celebrate Diwali - the five-day ‘Festival of Lights’. It is one of the most significant festivals in Indian culture and is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains every autumn between mid-October and mid-November.
The largest Diwali celebration outside of India takes place in Leicester with tens of thousands of people travelling from worldwide to join the festivities.
Hina, Customer Services Advisor in Leicester, has worked at Advance for over 12 years. We spoke to her about what Diwali means to her, how she traditionally celebrates and memories from past Diwali celebrations in the Leicester office.
1. What does Diwali mean to you?
Traditionally, alongside the religious story and meaning, Diwali means family time to me, delicious food and people coming together from across religions.
It is the most important festival in the Hindu calendar but also important as a national celebration. The diversity of people who come together to celebrate is pretty special. Religions become one and it is lovely to see everyone respecting each other’s beliefs, whether they believe in Hinduism or not, it doesn’t matter, you can see everyone embracing it.
2. How do you usually celebrate Diwali?
Before lockdown, every year my family travelled to Leicester from across the country (London, Liverpool and Leeds) to celebrate. Everyone is very busy and so the family time Diwali brings is something we take pride in. It is one of the main festivals, alongside Christmas, where we all come together.
My Dad is one of 7 siblings and at Diwali we have three generations all in one spot.
All the family gets stuck in preparing food and sharing it out with family and friends. In the afternoon we go for a meal together as a family and in the evening, we pick a house to go to, light fireworks and the children play with sparklers.
I also go to the Leicester Golden Mile Light switch on every year with my children. My parents made it a tradition for me growing up and it is just the best thing. There is something so special about fireworks, you get lost in the moment and everyone being together. I have carried on this tradition for my children too and they look forward to it.
3. What is Diwali like in Leicester?
Leicester is a pretty special place to celebrate Diwali. People come from everywhere to celebrate.
The celebrations begin with a light switch on. They shut down the whole of the Golden Mile and put fairy lights along the whole mile. The countdown is followed by a huge firework display and every evening for the 5-day period the road will be lit up. Along the golden mile, they have delicious traditional food stalls and fairground rides.
It is a celebration for everyone. My friends who are not Hindu or Sikh themselves have made it a tradition to go Leicester’s celebrations every year too!
4. How have you celebrated Diwali in the Leicester office in the past?
We try every year to do something to celebrate Diwali in the office. Since Covid, it has been much tricker to do so but in the past we have often come together across departments to celebrate.
At lunchtime staff have brought in delicious traditional food and everybody has joined in and dressed up. I am an arts and crafty person and love to get creative with decorations each year. One year I made a huge Diva out of paper for the office.
As we are a business with multiple departments, to be successful everyone needs to work together and understand and be respectful to each other’s culture, religion and background. Celebrations in the office like Diwali, really do bring us together.
5. What are you doing to celebrate Diwali this year?
We are keeping up our traditions with my wider family coming together, taking part in Leicester’s events, sharing delicious food and watching the amazing fireworks. We all love it.
Thank you so much for chatting with us Hina. We hope everyone who celebrated had a very happy Diwali!