How Do Indians and NRIs Celebrate Diwali in the U.S.A.?

While Indians living outside India say there is nothing like celebrating Diwali in India, Indians worldwide celebrate Diwali with fanfare regardless of where in the world they live!

Indians living outside of India are called Non-Resident Indians, or NRIs. Indians are admired world wide by many for being able to adapt to their host country while maintaining strong ties to their native culture through speaking in their native language and passing down their culture and traditions to their children born outside of India. 



Mixing and matching cultures creates harmony. A fall-
colored themed rangoli made by the author.
Photo credit: Shruti Shah Goradia.
A large part of passing on traditions is celebrating holidays. When living in another country, the schedule of holidays is totally different, and hence it may not always be possible to have a day off (leave) from work or school on the actual festival days. When those holidays fall on working days in the host country, an observance or a special meal may be cooked. Larger gatherings and celebrations will occur on non-working days and weekends before and after the actual holiday (unless the holiday happens to fall on a weekend). 

As an example, this year, Diwali falls on Wednesday, November 11, 2015. This is a working and a school day for Indians living in the US. This means that many will start preparing for celebrations the previous week, and have celebrations the previous weekend before Diwali and these celebrations may also spill into the next weekend as well. 

Here are more than ten ways that I have seen NRIs enjoy the holiday season in the US: 
  1. Cook a big traditional meal and invite friends over
  2. Have a pot-luck dinner (each invitee brings a cooked dish and shares it)
  3. Have a Diwali party – dancing, socializing, and maybe even, drinking!
  4. Burst crackers (fireworks). This can be done only in state where it’s legal for individuals to buy and set off fireworks.
  5. Hold a cultural program.
    NRIs living in communities with many Indians may be a member of a pan Indian group or a regional Indian group (Gujarati, Malayalee, Tamil, etc.). These groups often plan a cultural program followed by a dinner for major Indian holidays. People prepare months in advance for dances (such as Thiruvathirakali for Onam), skits, re-enactments, singing songs and other cultural program numbers. Some may even bring costumes, props and décor from India months or a year in advance for these events.
  6. Have a rangoli / kolum competition.
  7. Go to the Hindu temple.
  8. Hold a puja at home, and maybe invite other Indians who live nearby. These pujas often turn into potluck parties, where the food served was given during the puja from each family as prasadam.
  9. Bring new clothes from India months or a year ahead of time and wear it on Diwali.
  10. Arrange a Diwali party along with a little talk on the importance of Diwali for one’s officemates or classmates in school or college.
  11. Hand make clay diyas with friends and light diyas or fix lights to the house for bringing out a Diwali mood.
  12. While some may say this one doesn't count, some may board flights to visit their family in India during this auspicious time. 
I am sure there other holiday and celebratory ideas. Please share your ideas below in the comments section.
Happy Diwali /  Deepawali!

Notes: Though Diwali is a national holiday, it is peculiar that one particular state, Kerala, approaches Diwali differently. Keralites celebrate Onam with more fanfare. More about the connection between Onam and Diwali here.

Information about Diwali:
Celebrating other Indian / Hindu Holidays in the US
Other relevant links:

When is DIwali in 2016? October 30, 2016
When is Diwali in 2017?  October 19 2017

Author Jennifer Kumar facilitates co-located team members to work across global borders. Whether you are an Indian living in India working with Americans remotely (from India) or working with Americans as an expat in the US or an American working on a global software team, contact Jennifer for your team engagement needs today.


Updated: 2014
Networked blogs link: http://nblo.gs/10PuMl

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