In my family Diwali has always meant celebrating the light in our lives, good over evil and gratitude for all we have. All 5 days of Diwali have a different mythological story though each celebrates the blessings in life of health, joy and family relationships. We cherish all our relationships not only within our family but also among our neighbors and colleagues at work or school.
We decorate the home with lights inside and out along with hanging a lantern. When the kids were young, making a paper lantern at home was a yearly activity. The full moon before the holiday (which falls on New Moon) begins the preparations, from decorating the home to preparing special foods. I am fortunate to have some cousins in the area and we exchange the holiday goodies. Every year we have celebrated Diwali in the US by sharing a home-made meal with our family, friends and neighbors. My neighbors have come to expect it and begin to ask me when the Diwali Dinner will be as soon as we put up the lantern outside our home. Sharing what one has is also at the core of the celebrations and gifts are exchanged among family members. Every family that joins us for the Diwali dinner always leaves with a gift as well.
Like many Asian Indians, I learned to cook and make all the special items for Diwali by observing my mother and grandmother. So I have done my best to note down the recipe for Chivda (a popular flattened rice snack seasoned with spices, nuts and raisins).