Friday, November 1, 2013

Happy Diwali!

In the last few years, I have learned that there is great benefit in knowing a little bit about every culture, especially the holidays. It is hard to be an expert on all of them, but a basic understanding is helpful. It gives people more respect for other traditions and beliefs, as well as creating a better camaraderie between people.

Growing up, I hardly knew anything about other cultures. Sadly, the few things I did know were usually stereotypical or half-truths. Other cultures always fascinated me, but my teachers discouraged my classmates and me from learning about them. When we did learn about them, it was always from the perspective of “our way is the right way to live, and these other ways are the wrong way”. (fyi, for any newer readers, I went to a very strange, ultra-conservative private school.)

When I left that environment, I started researching other cultures and learning all the unique traditions that exist. Do I celebrate all of them every year? Goodness no! I wouldn’t have time for anything else if I did. Haha! But knowing about them gives me the chance to make an extra connection with people that I would not have gotten before.

This thought is especially strong in my mind today because I got to celebrate Diwali with some of my co-workers. For anyone who has never heard of Diwali, it is the festival of lights (particularly, the inner light), and it is also used to celebrate the end of harvest.

There are many ways to celebrate this holiday. Some of the most common include: lighting decorated clay (diyas) or paper lamps, cleaning one’s home, creating brightly-colored rangolis (geometrical sand drawings), gambling, and shooting of fireworks. In the office today, we ate some delicious Indian cuisine, watch a beautiful, traditional dance, and painted clay oil lamps. Here are a couple pictures of the lamp I painted:

If I had continued to hold to some of the things I was taught as a child, I would not have had this chance to meet and talk with some of my co-workers. It was fun to see their excitement and enthusiasm, and they were eager to include me, even though I have different beliefs.

So to celebrate the importance of making yourself a better person and learning to respect and include others, I wish you all a Happy Diwali!

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