Festival of light clay lamps placed in concentric circles and lit on Diwali

Festival of Light: Diwali, Hanukkah, and Other Religious Celebrations of Light

Enrich your winter holidays by incorporating traditions from a festival of lights celebrated around the world.

Nearly every culture acknowledges the growing darkness that precedes the hibernal solstice and celebrates it with lights. Let's examine the most popular celebrations of light on Earth.

Diwali: Festival of Lights

Indian woman dressed in purple and gold holds lit clay lamp during the Indian festival of lights

As the most celebrated festival of lights each year, Diwali, or Dipawali is the central holy day for Hindus.

The Sanskrit word, dipavali, means clay lamps (deepa or diya) set in a row (avali).

In India, Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists join the five-day celebration for their own religious reasons. Christians and Muslims will also light the lamps with their Indian friends to pay respect and wish them good fortune.

The Meaning of Diwali

For Hindus, the five-day festival may refer to one of three things:

  • Northern India — Rama's triumphant return to Ayodhya after destroying Ravana

  • Western India — Vishnu's banishing of Bali to rule over the underworld

  • Southern India — Krishna's victory over the demon Narakasura

The Five Days of Diwali

The five-day festival of lights usually falls somewhere near the cusp of October and November on the Gregorian calendar and is celebrated as follows:

  1. Day One — Housecleaning and shopping for gold or kitchenware

  2. Day Two — Decorating with clay lamps and rangoli, an art form that uses colored sand

  3. Day Three — Performing a Lakshmi puja, hosting feasts, and lighting fireworks

  4. Day Four — Visiting relatives and gift-giving on the first day of the new lunar fortnight

  5. Day Five — Celebrating the bond between brothers and sisters with feasts and gifts

Hanukkah: A Jewish Holiday Miracle

 Seven Hanukkiahs of different styles are fully lit on the last day of Hanukkah

In the West, Hanukkah is known as the Festival of Lights. The December holiday is a celebration of the rededication of the Second Temple.

The Origin of Hanukkah

According to events described in the Books of the Maccabees, Judah Maccabee led a successful uprising against the Seleucid Empire.

Finding the First Temple desecrated, the Jewish people set out to rebuild, repair, and rededicate it.

However, as the Talmud explains, they only had enough pure oil to keep the Temple's menorah lit for one day.

God granted a miracle that allowed the menorah to stay lit for eight days, during which time the priests secured a fresh batch of oil. Thus, the Hanukkah holiday was born.

The Eight Days of Hanukkah

Many people who celebrate Hanukkah have borrowed the Christmas traditions of gift-giving and putting up holiday decorations.

However, authentic Hanukkah festivities involve lighting the candles on a Hanukkiah, a menorah with nine branches. Each day, participants light an additional candle and offer prayers of glorification until all nine candles are ablaze. Other activities include:

  • Preparing potato latkes

  • Eating sufganiyot, or jelly donuts

  • Playing with a dreidel

How Many Religions Have a Celebration of Light?

 Christmas tree lights up the sky at a festival

Almost all religions hold celebrations of light in some form. Some of the most notable festivals of lights include:

  • Christmas — Hanging Christmas lights and lighting candles

  • Ramadan — Holding lanterns, hanging twinkle lights, and watching fireworks

  • Lantern Festival — Releasing paper lanterns and solving the riddles written on them

  • Kwanzaa — Lighting the seven candles of the kinara, a candelabra

Which Festivals of Lights Will You Celebrate?

Every festival of lights celebrates the ultimate victory of good over evil, light over darkness.

At Galactic Federation of Light, we would like to illuminate your holidays as you prepare for the longest night of the year with our exclusive Light Worker Collection.


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