Diwali 2024: What Is Diwali?

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Happy Diwali. Traditional Indian Festival Background with Burning Lamps, Bokeh and Light Effects. Shining Diya. Vector illustration
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Diwali Traditions and Date

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Diwali is the Indian “festival of lights”—celebrating the triumph of good over evil. In 2024, Diwali is celebrated on November 1. Learn more about Diwali traditions, including special Indian foods and sweets.

What Is Diwali?

Diwali (also called Divali or Deepavali) is a “festival of lights” that celebrates the triumph of light over dark, good over evil, and the blessings of victory, freedom, and enlightenment. The name comes from Sanksrit dipavali, meaning “row of lights.” On the night of Diwali, celebrants light dozens of candles and clay lamps (called diyas), placing them throughout their homes and in the streets to light up the night.

In most of India, Diwali consists of a five-day celebration that peaks on the third day with the main celebration of Diwali. In other places where Diwali occurs, only the main day is usually celebrated.

a diva lamp lit for diwali
A specially-made clay lamp, called a diya, lit for Diwali.

Who Celebrates Diwali?

Followers of the Hindu, Sikh, and Jain faiths primarily celebrate Diwali. However, the holiday is celebrated throughout India, Singapore, and several other South Asian countries as a national holiday, meaning that people outside these religions may participate in Diwali celebrations, too. Hindu, Sikh, and Jain communities in the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, and elsewhere around the globe also regularly celebrate Diwali.

When Is Diwali?

Diwali occurs annually in autumn (or spring, in the southern hemisphere) during the Hindu month of Kartik. (In Western terms, Karti begins around mid-October and ends in mid-November.) Specifically, Diwali occurs on the darkest day of the lunar month, the day of the new Moon.

Diwali Dates
YearDate of Diwali
2024Friday, November 1
2025Monday, October 20
2026Sunday, November 8
2027Friday, October 29

Diwali Traditions and Customs

Because Diwali is celebrated by so many people worldwide, traditions are diverse, though there are a few common themes, including lighting candles and gathering families.

The main celebration of Diwali takes place on the day of the new Moon when the sky is at its darkest, so a big part of the celebration revolves around light. Candles, clay lamps, and oil lanterns are lit and placed throughout the home, in the streets, in areas of worship, and floated on lakes and rivers. Fireworks are also set off on the night of Diwali—said by some to ward off evil spirits.

Another central theme of Diwali is family. Wearing their best new clothes, families gather together to eat sweets and other special foods, light diyas (decorative oil lamps), and pray for their ancestors. Businesses are generally closed (or close early) on Diwali to allow workers to celebrate with their families.

The feast can be quite extravagant, with special dishes and sweets filling the table. In honor of Diwali, here are a few Indian-inspired recipes to try:

  1. East Indian Curry Dip
  2. Raita Cucumber Yogurt Salad
  3. Palak Panir Spinach and Tofu
  4. Sweet Potato Lentil Coconut Curry
  5. Coconut Ladoos
coconut laddos a traditional diwali snack
Coconut ladoos, a classic Diwali sweet.

Diwali in India

In much of India, Diwali consists of five days of celebrations rather than just one. 

  1. On the first day, Indians will clean their homes and create intricate rangoli—designs made of colored rice, sand, or flowers created on the floor of the house.
  2. The second day is spent preparing or buying special food (especially sweets, called mithai), as well as praying for the spirits of ancestors in the afterlife.
  3. On the third day—the main day of Diwali—families gather and celebrate by lighting lanterns and candles in their homes and in the streets and by shooting off fireworks! (In southern India, the second day is the main day of celebration instead of the third.)
  4. Traditions of the fourth day vary, but a common theme is the bond between husband and wife, so husbands often buy their spouses gifts to celebrate.
  5. The fifth day focuses on the bond between siblings, specifically between brother and sister. 
a colorful flower rangoli
A rangoli made of flowers.

Do you celebrate Diwali? What traditions do you follow for the holiday? Let us know in the comments below—and Happy Diwali to those who celebrate!

About The Author

Christopher Burnett

Chris is an avid gardener, maintaining a small vegetable garden for himself and his family, a variety of ornamental flowers and shrubs, and a diverse collection of houseplants. Read More from Christopher Burnett

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