Spanning over several days Diwali, or the Festival of Lights, is among the most auspicious and celebrated dates in the Hindu calendar, with Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists also celebrating the holiday.
A celebration of light over dark the festival is synonymous with firework displays, family celebrations and group feasts.
Like many other religious events, the Hindu festival has been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic with family celebrations set to be impacted by social distancing restrictions.
Here’s everything you need to know about 2020 celebrations - and how they’ve been affected by the pandemic.
When is Diwali?
Diwali takes place each year between October and November at the conclusion of the harvest and to celebrate the new moon.
Celebrations take place over five days known as; Dhanteras (Day of fortune); Naraka Chaturdashi (Day of knowledge); Diwali (Day of light); Annakut (New Year); Bhai Duj (Day of love between siblings).
In 2020 the five day celebrations run from November 13 to November 16.
How do people typically celebrate Diwali?
During the celebration, streets, homes, offices and shops are illuminated with light, which acts as a metaphor for knowledge and consciousness.
Over the five-day period of the festival, people prepare by cleaning and decorating their homes.
The festivities reach their peak on the third day, Diwali, which falls on the darkest day of the Hindu lunar month, Kartik.
On this day, revellers dress up, light up their homes with oil lamps and candles (diyas) and worship Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity and wealth.
They also light fireworks and enjoy a feast with their family, sharing mithai (sweets) and gifts.
How will celebrations be impacted in 2020?
Diwali celebrations across the UK have either been cancelled or adapted due to coronavirus restrictions.
In Leicester a traditional light switch on complete with music and dancing has been cancelled, though the lights themselves along the city’s golden mile will still be switched on.
In London, Diwali celebrations at Trafalgar Square have been swapped for a virtual celebration.
The government has issued the following advice on celebrating religious events while coronavirus restrictions are in place:
At Home: - As hard as it is, try to meet as few people outside your household as possible.
- Groups of up to two households (a household means those you live together with under the same roof, or you are in a ‘support bubble’ together) can meet socially in any location. A group of up to six people from different households can meet outdoors.
- Even in these groups you should ensure you wash your hands frequently and keep 2 metres apart from people outside your own household or bubble, even in other people’s homes.
- Other actions taken to reduce the risk of transmission should also be considered, for example, any food shared should be pre-wrapped, and ensure friends and family use their own dishes and cutlery.
- Family visits to a grave should follow the social distancing rules, keeping 2 metres apart between different households outdoors or indoors.
Outside: – Don’t join in with any large gatherings in outdoor spaces which do not have safety measures in place.
- Don’t risk your health by attending an event that hasn’t been approved by your council or the land owner.
- If you choose to attend any gathering, you should ensure that it is COVID-19 secure and that you follow the safety advice set out by event organisers.
- The best way to make an event COVID-19 secure is for the community to actively work with the owner, the council, the local police and local partners. Those partners will have to carefully check that people can attend with minimal risk of transmitting COVID-19.
- If the numbers attending any gathering can be kept below 30 then transmission risks will be greatly reduced.
- All events should follow social distancing guidance, and organisers should carry out risk assessments and apply the principles above.
- In public spaces (beyond the place of worship’s own grounds), you should work alongside the owner of that space and with other relevant authorities such as the local authority and police to put safety measures in place. You may want to do that even if on the grounds of a place of worship to manage other risks.
- Most importantly - if you are any doubt that risks can be managed effectively, then find a safer way to host your event.
- It’s also important that you do not stay long after prayers/worship and you should not hug or touch anyone outside your household.
- You should ensure that any celebrations held after prayers/worship only involve up to 6 people from different households if held outdoors. You should also keep 2 metres apart from others at any celebration, even if you are in someone’s house.