the festival(s) of lights

About a week ago, my friend Ben, had us all over to his apartment for a Hanukkah party.  We had latkes, wine and lit the menorah for the Jewish festival of lights (we were there for the third night of the holiday).

The latkes were homemade (slaved over for hours by Ben), the wine was questionably “semi-sweet” (you take what you can get here), and the menorah was makeshift (candles stuck to the top of shelves), and the celebration was great (that’s what gathering with friends is all about).

About a month before this, I was also able to celebrate the Festival of Lights here in Nepal, Tihar (also called Dewali or Depawali).  This is a five day festival here in Nepal that celebrates the Goddess Laxmi (the Goddess of Wealth) and has a different puja each day (they even have a day where people give puja to their dogs).  The whole city is lit up for 5 days with candles and Christmas lights and people are setting off happy bombs (fireworks), singing and celebrating all night.  It kind of felt like a combination of the 4th of July, Christmas and New Years all wrapped up into one festival.  Which, to sum it up, pretty much means that it was awesome.

Check out this link for a more in depth description of the holiday.

I got to spend the 5th day, Bhai Tikka Day (Brother Tikka Day) with some of my Nepali friends and their families.  I felt very lucky to have been invited into their homes and had a really great time spending the holiday with them.  Brother Tikka day is the day of brothers and sisters.  Sisters give brothers tikka to ensure their long lives and thank them for the protection they give and gifts are exchanged.  It seems it is usually gifts from the sisters and money from the brothers (even here, men don’t quite know what to buy for women!).

Both of my friends did this as family affairs, with aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents.  If boys didn’t have sisters, they had their girl cousins do the tikka for them.  And of course, following the tikka, there was plenty of really good, home-cooked Nepali food (and even a little rakshi to go around).

To add even more celebration to the day, it was also the Newari New Year and as I was driving from one friend’s house to the other, I passed the parade of Newari boys on trucks singing and celebrating that as well.

Family.  Food.  Tikka.  Lights.  Fireworks.  What else could you ask for in celebrating a holiday?

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photos (c) Bethany Meuleners

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