How do people living out of India celebrate Diwali?

Bryn Durocher

Diwali is a beautiful celebration of good over evil (National et al.). This festival of lights is celebrated across five days. A significant part of these celebrations is family, and there can be a feeling of homesickness when you, as an immigrant, are separated from family and traditions during Diwali.

If you are feeling this way, you are not alone. Sindhuja Balaji (KTH) in 2018 wrote:

“A few thousand miles away from home on Diwali is the most difficult thing to endure. It is painful. Right from the morning, I had been texting my Indian friends in Sweden, wishing them “Happy Diwali,” somehow, the text ended up in tears with each sobbing about how much we miss home. While there are many Indian communities here who gather and celebrate the festival together, it is never the same. I am trying hard to convince myself that this is close to the real thing, while it is not. However, this is the best we can do to feel a home away from home. It is not the sweets, crackers, or lights that I miss here; it is love and my family…”

Being away from family and the richness of celebrating within your culture can be distressing. You might feel isolated or included by seeing the festivities on social media (Mishra, 2019). Some experts suggest we stay off social media entirely (Mishra, 2019). 

It is impossible to be in two places at once, unfortunately. However, many other active ways exist to cope with homesickness around Diwali. 

In 2022, student Anay Baid told CBC News: “There is a certain sense of incompleteness because Diwali is supposed to be celebrated with family, friends and cousins back home. Diwali helped me find a family because there are so many Indians celebrating the same festival here. For all of us to come together for such a wonderful cause, trying to have a good time amid all our studies, has been truly wonderful.”

Diwali celebrations can be found all over Canada. Researching activities and getting involved can be beneficial. Try websites like Eventbrite to find celebratory events in your community. As mentioned above, these festivities will help you to form a community and make new friends. 

Here are some more coping skills, as suggested by Republic TV (2023): 

●      Connect with family. Whether through video calls, regular calls, or texting, eliminate some of the disconnects you are feeling from your family this Diwali by keeping in contact and wishing them a Happy Diwali. Talk, laugh and be merry, savouring your precious time together. 

●      Eat well. We already know that diet is related to mental health, and you should always take care of yourself, no matter how you are feeling. Good food will always make you feel better, and it can also be eaten in a social context.

●      Connect with friends. While not a replacement for family, friends can be ultimately comforting and help you have a good time this Diwali.

●      Practice gratitude. Be thankful during Diwali for all you have, and make new memories within your community.

Additionally, I recommend trying to recreate activities at home, such as cooking traditional meals. If you are celebrating within Indian culture, Gulab Jamun is one dish you can make. It is a traditional fried dough dessert in syrup with rose and saffron. I have tried this dish, and I enjoy it. I will link a recipe here: There are hundreds of other foods you can try making, and if you have never cooked before, do not worry! It is all for the experience.

Are you celebrating Diwali for the first time, or want to know more about it? You have come to the right place. Let us discuss Diwali more and the activities that happen during the celebration. 

For northern India, Diwali is celebrated with the story of King Rama returning to Ayodhya after he bested Ravana by lighting groups of clay lamps (National et al.). Southern India celebrates Diwali in light of Lord Krishna besting the demon Narakasura (National et al.). In western India, Diwali falls on the day that Lord Vishnu made the demon King Bali go off and rule the nether world (National et al.).

If people of Indian culture celebrate Diwali, they may wear traditional Indian clothing. Diwali is celebrated in other countries, such as Malaysia and Singapore (Sherriff, 2021). As for traditions, Diwali includes traditions of cleaning the house, making patterns on flat surfaces out of rice, sand, powdered limestone, coloured rocks, or flowers, and eating and exchanging sweets (Sherriff, 2021). Participants also partake in lighting candles and lanterns (Sherriff, 2021). A Diya, or lamp, is illuminated to symbolize good fortune, prosperity, well-being, and the abundance of wealth. It also represents a request for light to dispel sins. (Sherriff, 2021). Like other celebrations, there is also music and art, such as henna painting (Saiyed, 2011). 

Diwali is a rich celebration full of love and light. If you can, I highly recommend celebrating. Practicing cultural traditions can help to heal homesickness through the connection to family and our roots. Even doing something small, such as cooking or art, can help us feel more connected. 

Moreover, if you are struggling, you do not have to suffer in silence. Discussing your emotions with someone and acquiring additional coping skills can be beneficial during this challenging period. Reach out to to connect with therapists in your preferred language. There are always people that are there for you.

Besides that, I am wishing you a Happy Diwali and a great week. Enjoy, and be sure to do what makes you happiest. 



Balaji, S. (2018). It’s Diwali- I miss home! The KTH International Student Blog.

Mishra, M. (2019). How to cope when you feel homesick during the festive season. Hindustan Times

National Geographic Kids (n.d.). Diwali: Festival of Lights.

Republic TV. (2023). Diwali 2023: 5 ways to deal with homesickness during festival of lights. Republic Lifestyle Desk.

Saiyed, S. (2011). Diwali festival: Fashion, dance, food and — above all — light. Brandeis University.

Sherriff, L. (2021). Celebrating Diwali Traditions. Discovery.

Shetty, A. (2022). International students celebrate their first Diwali away from home — together. CBC News.