DIWALI in New Jersey, USA

  • An enlightening personal experience of how an Indian Family celebrated Diwali in New Jersey.

Diwali, also known as Deepavali, is the festival of lights observed by more than a billion Hindus across the world to celebrate the lights of goodness. It is deeply associated with human virtues and well-being. Its history and rituals are centered around life.


There are numerous wonderful stories, messages, and reasons behind the importance of this festival. Whether it is India or the US the passion and lights of Diwali illuminate the lives of all. Krishna’s victory over Narakasura and how thousands of women captives were freed, Bhagvan Rama’s victory over Ravana and how he set an example of the highest virtue, Vamana avatar’s actions against the imperialist king Bali, Mahakali’s message of transforming into a better human being, and Krishna’s message of respecting Nature on Govardhan Puja have continued to inspire generations since time immemorial. Diwali is the time to reflect upon these and celebrate our cultural identity and ethos. 


Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists also celebrate this festival of lights in a grand way wherever they are located on the globe. Reasons and legends might vary but the underlying spirit of light is omnipresent on Diwali.


The darkest of days become days of hope and inspiration when we light diyas on Diwali. Being in the US, it is a matter of great pride and gratitude for me when I see Diwali celebrations here, far away from my punyabhumi-Bharat.


The first thing that comes to mind is the Diwali celebration at Times Square, which has been happening for almost a decade now. This year, the event featured Indian music, numerous dance performances representing various states of India along with a performance by Jay Sean. Multiple dignitaries including Jersey City’s mayor, Steven Fulop, NYC mayoral candidate Eric Adams, and India’s consulate general in New York, Randhir Jaiswal were present. Numerous cultural organizations had multiple Diwali events all month long at different parks, public libraries, and community centers. Multiple school districts in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania declared official holiday for Diwali. 

Diwali display mural Times Square. 


Celebrations across the US were bigger than ever this year, especially after the lockdowns due to the pandemic.

World Trade Center was lit with a digital mural in celebration of Diwali. Pic credit Times of India.

People enjoyed viewing fireworks over the Hudson River. Here, in New Jersey, people are allowed to buy and enjoy fireworks, it brings great joy to see young children enjoying Diwali with colorful phool-jhadis and anaars.


Hindu temples in New Jersey organize various events during this time. I visited a Krishna Mandir with my family to let my kids enjoy fireworks. They had multiple local vendors, had amazing Indian food, and the atmosphere was blessed and filled with joy. There were families from different regions of India, everyone came together as one family within the temple premises to enjoy a festive evening of lights and cheer.

Fireworks in Hudson river, NY/NJ. Pic by Author

We also had a great time shopping on Dhanteras in Edison, The Little India of New Jersey. Just like every year, we bought fresh marigolds and mango leaves to decorate our home. Our favorite place to go and shop for puja items is Vivek Flowers in Edison, this shop has a special ambience. They have everything any Hindu can imagine having for a puja. There were families from all parts of India looking for flowers or clay diyas or murtis or leaves or pots or rangoli colors.


Such stores are special because we get to see so many things that we never knew existed back in India. For example, I did not know about turmeric cotton wicks until I saw them in the US. Several things that are used in different local traditions of India, can be seen, and learnt about at shops and stores run by Indians in the US. After the amazing shopping experience, we had amazing dosas at Saravana Bhavan and it brought back memories of enjoying food and Diwali shopping in India. My children were excited to have their Kaju Katlis and Boondi Laddoos at Rajbhog Sweets.


When my son asked me why people were buying pots and pans on Dhanteras, I explained to him that it’s a symbol of amrit, nectar of life. It is to celebrate the deity of Ayurveda and pray for good health.


On our way back home, we spotted a huge pop-up shop of fireworks, called “Bollywood.” To my surprise, they had a huge collection of fireworks and was run by Americans. They were super welcoming and explained to my kids what each firecracker did as there were so many types of creative firecrackers. The drive back home was scenic, entire rows of houses were lit by festival lights. It looked just like any other street in India. Finally, we came home and lit a Diya made of wheat dough which is supposed to have four wicks, illuminating lives in all four directions.


On the next day of Chhoti Diwali, we had few friends getting together for a potluck dinner and I organized a kid’s craft event, where kids enjoyed to make spray paint cards for Diwali. 

In the morning of Badi Diwali, we made long strings of flowers and leaves ourselves to decorate the house. We enjoyed making divine designs of rangolis too. The day went by preparing for the evening Lakshmi puja. Then came the most awaited part of the Diwali time, lighting diyas. Once the diyas were lit, there was a meditative ambience in the house, it was a time for some quiet moments, time to reflect, time to smile, and time to simply thank for what we have.


This is also how, many of my friends in the US celebrate Diwali. They enjoy the time preparing, decorating, sharing, and lighting diyas on Diwali. It is heartwarming to see many families donating to various non-profit organizations on Diwali. Everyone wants to share their happiness with the larger society.


While staying away from Bharat, we miss Bharat every moment, but Diwali certainly feels grand and lively here as much as in Bharat. We are very fortunate to have many friends from other countries as well who wish us on Diwali and are always eager to know about our traditions and respect who we are. Sharing sweets with them makes the festival even more special.


May these lights of love, life, virtue, and laughter illuminate the dark days of this pandemic and bring an end to all the difficult times all nations are going through. Wish you a belated Happy Deepavali!


Author Priya is a CA, CPA, Publisher and Children’s Book Author, Founder of Eternal Tree Books LLC, East Brunswick, NJ, USA. Site is www.eternaltreebooks.com


Also by Author – Using traditional Pottery can bring good health and happiness


Also read

1. Diwali in Canada

2. Diwali in London and Trafalgar Square

3. Diwali in Malaysia and Here

4. Dev Deepavali Kashi  


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