The Christmas lights go up around mid-October in my neighbourhood. Because the lights are for Diwali. It’s the festival of light in Indian culture, which means Christmas lights on the houses, candles lining the driveways, and after dark, fireworks. The family across the street had been practicing for days before the big Thursday celebration. 11am, in my front room, I could hear them lighting all manner of squealers, cracklers, and rockets. We were home that night, too, when the big ones were set off, all over the neighbourhood. I could see the colours through my front window, and I could hear the cracks and pops from across the backyard. All over the neighbourhood, families were gathered together to celebrate light in the darkness, good over evil.
Most days, I take an afternoon walk, a route that’s about 45 minutes around my neighbourhood. Friday, I brought my camera, turning my daily exercise into a photo walk. I’ve been thinking a lot about blogging more, making the act of looking for ideas an intentional part of my working day. It wasn’t that I wanted to write about Diwali, or even Halloween coming up. I had all but forgotten about the firecrackers the night before.
Then I found them, the packages and debris left on the wet ground. They looked as beautiful as they had sounded last night. It had rained, making the grass a brilliant green, the sidewalk a deep grey. Red candles had been left to melt down into the concrete. Boxes and boxes of sparklers were empty now–every kid had their chance to make marks in the night. The same brands on every block, like everyone knows the best place to buy firecrackers. Everyone has a guy who knows the same guy.
Still a few days before Halloween, but it feels like we’re already done. The sparklers have been burned down to fingertips. The firecrackers are all used up. The smoke from the fireworks has long dissipated into the air. Then, on my walk yesterday, through the same neighbourhood, I noticed the Halloween decorations were out. Where once there were candles, now there are pumpkins. The Christmas lights have been turned out, and the houses draped in white spiderwebs instead.
Despite the turn from traditional to commercial, the celebrations of Diwali and Halloween aren’t all that different. For Indo-Canadian kids, the last two weeks of October must feel like an extended holiday. Firecrackers and sweets, fancy dress and candles. If Diwali is the festival of light, Halloween must be the festival of darkness. But both are celebrated with light to show us the way.