How One First Gen American Family Honors Diwali in Chandler, Ariz.


Guest Author: Parvathy Subramanian is an East Valley working mom of two girls, one elementary and one junior high schooler. A first generation American, originally from India, she is passionate about enjoying her cultural traditions and celebrations with her kids.  

When growing up my brother and I used to long for the Diwali festival – it’s an excitement for competing reasons, be it the fireworks, new dresses, movie releases, desserts and savories or plain getting together with friends and family.

We always had a competition of who would be brave enough to burst all those fireworks. The night before, we decorate our front porch with beautiful colorful powder combinations (called “Rangoli” or “kolam”) and lights.

Diwali was always an early rise day (4 a.m.) to the prayerful chants of my mom and sweet smell of yummy delicacies that are nicely wrapped and ready to be distributed to friends and family. But before touching anything we needed to first take a shower and sit in front of the altar and meditate for a few minutes.

This is when the excitement picks up as we start hearing the lone firework sounds (from a few early birds) as we wait for our dad to distribute the brand-new Diwali outfits which had been untouched for a week. Wearing that, we would run to start bursting the fireworks with our friends and family.

Diwali has such a wonderful emotional tie for me, but I’ve questioned how do I pass this on to my kids? 

As a first-generation immigrant there is a lot of pressure on how to pass on our Indian traditions and rich and meaningful culture that I grew up with.

When growing up in India I used to pester my grandparents for stories. My great grandma and my granny used to patiently tell me and my cousins so many short stories from the epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana.

Thinking back those stories taught us so many values and molded us into who we are today.

The most important principles ingrained in people of my generation growing up in India are: healthy life driven by the food we eat, peaceful world driven by individual actions, life filled with honesty, integrity and being of help to others.

One lesson growing up in India we hold dear: Family is everything and it is the next generation’s responsibility to take care of the previous. 

How we celebrate Diwali right here in Chandler, Arizona:

The kids are already so excited for Diwali this year. I try to keep up with the traditions my parents followed.

The week before Diwali the cleanup process will start.

We give away old clothes, order new traditional Indian clothes for the family and make sure it is shipped to us on time.

We order special sweets and savories and pack them in cute packages for friends. The evening before Diwali we clean up the front porch and put out the kolam (rangoli).

Kids love to make lines and pattern with the rangoli powder.

On Diwali day we all wake up early in the morning (as much as possible) and take a shower and meditate for a few minutes in front of the altar.

If it’s a school day, then the rest of the celebration happens in the evening. After the kids are back home, we get dressed in our special new Indian clothes and visit friends and distribute sweets.

Later in the evening, a few families get together and have a small Diwali party.

We make it into a potluck and bring yummy traditional dishes to share. Then we burst fireworks.

My kids love the sparklers and just bond with their friends on a special day and have fun. If it’s vacation day, then we make sure to visit a temple and offer prayers.

We have a few Hindu temples in the Valley where they have brought in the authentic architecture and beauty of a traditional temple. It is wonderful for the kids to visit these temples and understand the significance behind every small nuance there. 

Anyone can visit a local temple to learn more and participate in Diwali celebrations.  To learn more visit and!  

Happy Diwali everyone. Namaste! The Light in me bows to the Light in you!

Diwali fast facts:

Diwali is a festival of lights, a victory of light over darkness.

There are different stories on why we celebrate Diwali depending on which part of India you are from. But the basic meaning is victory of Light over Darkness, Peace over Suffering, Knowledge over Ignorance.

We meditate upon the higher power to provide everyone in the world with the eight elements of primal wealth: Peace, Family, Knowledge, Food, Strength, Courage, Success and Wealth.



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