The festival of Diwali is underway and there are many people in Botswana who celebrate this special occasion. Known as the ‘Festival of Light’ it is characterised by fireworks, feasts, sweets, prayers and family and community gatherings.
Diwali is not a festival I had really come across before moving to Botswana so it may seem like a strange choice to blog about it. One of the things we love most about living in Gaborone is its diversity and inclusivity. We have been truly privileged to have been invited to share special festivals and occasions with our friends from different religions.
It struck me that religious festivals are an ideal opportunity to teach our children about the world; about different beliefs and about tolerance and respect for others. The more we know about our community, the more connected we begin to feel. Religious festivals are also fantastic inspiration for play!
The Layman’s Guide to Diwali
Diwali, in essence, signifies the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil and hope over despair. Concepts we can all get behind! It is a festival in the Hindu religious calendar although it is also observed in a different form by the Jains and Sikhs.
Diyas (lanterns and candles) are lit and the accompanying feasts usually include delicious sweets (mithai). I’m reliably informed that the Hare Krishna Iskon Temple in Phase 2 sells some of the best sweets for this occasion. You can pick them up in some of the Choppies stores too. It’s lovely to take the time to share a treat with your family.
A video is a great way to explain the festival to children and there are lots of great animations on you tube that talk about traditions and tell the stories behind the celebrations. For older children, National Geographic have a nice short film you can watch.
We were lucky enough to be invited to a Diwali party where the children had a chance to decorate their own diya and make a wish as it floated away on water. Diyas can be purchased from Mr Veg or you can make your own out of a simple salt dough and decorate them with paint and glitter. You can use this opportunity to talk to your child about the concepts of light, goodness and hope and your own religious beliefs, be they Hindu, Christian, Muslim etc.
Diwali Inspired Play Ideas
Hindu festivals are probably the most colourful in the world which is great for inspiring a child’s interest. Here are just a few Diwali inspired arts and crafts you can try at home:
- Rangoli patterns. Draw patterns on the ground using chalk, coloured sand, coloured rice, or as we did, leaves and blossoms we found in the garden. Rangoli patterns can be found online and printed out for colouring. This website has some lovely printable pages.
- Paper lanterns. These can be as detailed or simple as you want and it’s an easy craft for young children to do with a little bit of guidance. Instructions can be found here.
- Candle Holder or Diya. You can decorate pre-bought ones, make long lasting holders from salt dough or fashion them out of playdough. Playdough is easy and quick to make yourself.
If you are thinking of ways to keep your children entertained this week, why not be inspired by Diwali? Let’s get playing!
If you and your family celebrate Diwali, we’d love to hear from you! What are your favourite traditions? How do you celebrate in Botswana?