Understanding the Festival of Lights

Last updated 11:21 14/11/2012

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Sunia Krishna was so determined to make sure people know the difference between Diwali and Christmas she contacted the Hutt News for a story.

The confident 10-year-old is of Fijian-Indian descent and like many Indians in New Zealand celebrates Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights.

For Indians, Diwali is the equivalent of Christmas and has cultural and religious significance.

Sunia spent many hours helping her father Venkatesh decorate the house with lights.

She said she was dismayed when after a dummy run that her Kelson School classmates assumed that the lights were for Christmas.

Her response was to invite the neighbours and Hutt News to attend festivities last week.

All visitors were greeted with ''happy Diwali'' by Sunia and her brother Syon (7), who were both in traditional costumes.

As well as fireworks and lighting, there was plenty of food, including traditional Indian sweets.

Mr Krishan said Diwali was a special occasion for all Indians and it was a good opportunity to celebrate their culture.

It is important that the children have a sense of tradition and he was delighted with the way they got behind it, he says.

''We want to share our happiness with them.''

What is Diwali

-  Diwali is celebrated over five days. It means ''row of lamps'' and the burning of candles signifies the triumph of good over evil.

- Firecrackers are believed to drive away evil spirits.

- For Hindus it is one of the most important festivals of the year and families come together to celebrate it. During Diwali celebrants wear new clothes and share sweets.

- The festival starts with Dhanteras, on which most Indian business communities begin their financial year. The second day of the festival is called the Naraka Chaturdasi and the third day marks the worship of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. - -

- The fourth day is known as Kartika Shudda Padyami. The fifth day is Yama Dvitiya and sisters invite their brothers to their homes.

- An official reception has been held at the New Zealand Parliament since 2003 to celebrate Diwal.

- The festival signifies the triumph of light over darkness, justice over injustice, good over evil and intelligence over ignorance.

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