I am about to add a new holiday to my calendar - I guess you can never have enough of them. I am going to celebrate Diwali with my Indian friends here in Germany. It is a big festival for them, and a first time for me.
But maybe not all of it will feel alien to me. Some of its elements seem strangely familiar - the symbolism of the end of the year (or summer and harvest time), the connection to the souls of our ancestors, and the idea of lights, candles, sweets, gifts and firework... I haven't even seen it yet, but after reading about Diwali, it seems to me as if there are elements of Thanksgiving, All Souls Day (or Celtic Samhain), Christmas/midwinter/Hanukkah and New Year/Rosh Hashanah to be found in this ancient Indian holiday - or vice versa: Maybe there is a bit of Diwali in our Western winter festivals.
I guess, these holidays and ideas date back to at least the Bronze Age, and no one remembers their original name(s) and date(s). It just seems so likely that the end of harvest and beginning of Winter was a very important time for people of all eras. To light candles and lamps at this season, when days get short and the sun less powerful; to think of death and those who passed away; to celebrate the end of summer's hard work and give thanks for one's own life - and the full larders to keep alive until the next spring; to make gifts (sacrifices) to one's gods, protectors, ancestors and important ones; to celebrate with all the sweet and rich food one can afford, and to fight the demons of night, cold, winter and silence with joy, light, fire, music and noise...
...I suppose all that was always important to all people and all cultures, however long ago.
So much for theory. Now, I am looking forward to Diwali in practice - tonight!