Deepavali or Diwali is just around the corner on 14 November 2020 so here’s our guide to all things Deepavali in Singapore
Deepavali in Singapore is nearly here. This is the biggest Indian festival of the year, the ‘Festival of Lights’ so let’s take a look about what Deepavali or Diwali in Singapore is all about.
What is Deepavali?
The colourful festival marks the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness. There is an emphasis on worshipping Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity.
When is Diwali celebrated and for how long?
The Hindu lunar calendar determines the date on which Deepavali falls. It typically occurs sometime in the months of October and November. This year Deepavali in Singapore falls on 14 November (a Saturday) and usually celebrations last about five days. The Deepavali festival lights in Little India are on for much longer, from 3 October until 6 December this year.
Deepavali celebrations in Singapore
As with many other festivals around the world, Deepavali features new colourful clothes, gifts of sweets and treats. Families come together to worship, greet and eat. There is always fireworks and plenty of festive cheer. The Deepavali festival may be celebrated differently this year with all the safe distancing measures in place but we can still share colourful tips on how to get ready to celebrate – from what Indian outfits to buy, to everything you need to know on decorating your house, what Indian food to eat and where to see the best Deepavali lights in town!
In preparation for the celebration Deepavali
In preparation for Deepavali, homes are decorated and cleaned. Many families will create beautiful ‘Rangoli’ patterns at their home entrance. Rangoli is a colourful art piece created on the floor and made with different coloured fine powders, coloured rice or flowers. Rangoli is a great activity to do with the kids. You could even print out traditional rangoli designs from online to follow along or if you’re looking for a less messy option, have the little ones stick colourful rice directly onto rangoli pattern print outs.
Diyas and Lights for Deepavali
‘Diyas’ or earthen lamps are the most iconic decorative item for Deepavali as it is the festival of lights. ‘Deep’ means light and during the festival period diyas are lit up and placed all around and outside the home. Nowadays many families prefer to use votives and tea lights for convenience and safety. It is fun to buy plain clay diyas and paint them—another craft idea for the kids! Rangoli supplies and diyas can be found in Little India arcade as well as on Campbell Street. Traditionally diyas are filled with ghee and a handmade cotton wick is lit …but this can get tricky with the little ones so you might want to stick to simple (even electric) tea lights from Ikea, which you can just place into the diya! Colorful light strings are also put up around and inside the home…so go ahead and light up your house this Deepavali and fill your home with a bright and warm festive glow.
Decorate your home with Flower Garlands
Deepavali is an important time for Indian families to spring clean their homes, tidy up and decorate. As little kids, my mama always told us that if our house was clean and beautiful then we could be sure that Goddess Lakshmi would come and pay our home a visit on Deepavali night to bless us!
Down in Little India, Jyoti flower shop has beautiful flower garlands to decorate your home or you could just head to your local florist and pick up some colourful yellow, orange and red flowers (festive Deepavali colours). While decorating, the emphasis is always placed on the entrance of the home to create a welcoming aura for family members and friends visiting and of course to draw in the Goddess.
Shop for new Indian clothes
A favourite Deepavali tradition is buying and wearing new and colourful clothes. Head over to the shops at Tekka Centre or Fab India (at Vivo City) to buy some traditional Indian clothes — the more colourful the better! Boys typically wear a ‘Kurta pyjama’ which is a knee length tunic with drawstring pants and girls can wear the same or a ‘ghagra choli’ a long flowy skirt with a short blouse. For the girls (and yourself mama), it’s also fun to buy some colourful bangles from Little India Arcade or Mustafa.
Fireworks & Sparklers
On the day of Deepavali, 14 November rituals such as oil baths take place. Then families put on new clothes and head to the temple to pray. Usually they visit homes of friends and relatives for feasting however that may look very differently in 2020.
A big part of Deepavali celebrations in India is fireworks and with the eco movement and emphasis to reduce noise and air pollution, this has been toned down somewhat. However children are still encouraged to light a few sparklers and have a little fun. Boxes of sparklers can be purchased at Campbell Street. Keep a close eye on this activity for safety!
Indian Feasting Time
Of course the best part of the Deepavali festival is enjoying the delicious Indian food – whether it is out in an Indian restaurant or more often than not, at home with friends cooking together in the kitchen! Traditional Deepavali fare includes lots of sweets (known as ‘mithai’), dried fruit, savory fried snacks and rich main courses that are typically vegetarian. This is the time of year when home cooks pull out all the stops and use decadent ingredients like saffron, ghee, edible silver foil, dried fruits and full fat dairy products like cream and paneer (Indian cheese which you can buy fresh or frozen at Mustafa). Lots of wonderful traditional Indian sweets and snacks can be found at Mughal sweets in Little India as well as at Kailash Parbat restaurant. Look out for Kaju Katli (features cashews). Jalebi, Gulab Jamun and Milk Barfi.
If you’re looking to do some Indian cooking of your own in honour of Deepavali my Spicebox Kits are extremely handy featuring my cookbook ‘Cooking with Indian Spicebox’ and I would recommend looking at recipes such as Pakoras, Aloo tikki, Palak Paneer, Chana Masala and Heavenly Halva (a traditional Indian sweet made for prayers and offered to the Gods and Goddesses). A recipe for Heavenly Halwa is here. Important mama tip: Simply eliminate the red chilli powder/green chilli from any of the recipes to make your meal kid-friendly.
Read more: 43 Top Indian Restaurants in Singapore
Deepavali Festival Lights in Little India
A trip to Little India with the kids post sunset (avoid Sundays!) to enjoy the gorgeous Deepavali lights is definitely in order plus some shopping (of sweets, diyas, decorations, sparklers, rangoli) is an excellent way to get into the festive mood. The lights will be up until 6 December 2020.
14 November 2020: Deepavali Day
Come 14 November, the day of Deepavali itself, put on some Bollywood music, decorate your home with the kids, invite some friends over for dinner and cook up a family-friendly Indian feast! In the evening, light the diyas (tea lights), put on your festive attire and enjoy the wonderful festival Deepavali to celebrate the victory of light over darkness and good over evil.
Happy Deepavali everyone!