#TBT alert! This post has been updated, but was originally published October 24, 2014.
Teachers, scroll all the way down for a short list of key resources in our “Teachers’ Toolkit.”
- Read our terrific study guide on Diwali. The article says Diwali originated as a harvest festival. Many harvest festivals occur in autumn, as the weather begins to turn cold. Why would people celebrate the end of the harvest season, and why would they do so with a “festival of lights”?
- People celebrate the end of a harvest for two major reasons, both tied to agriculture. In ancient agricultural societies, the end of the season traditionally meant less need for the backbreaking work of harvesting crops. (Read more about how hard harvesting is!) If the harvest was successful, the end of the season also meant the community had abundant food for the winter. Less work, more food—those are both good reasons to celebrate!
- A festival of lights is perfectly timed as autumn turns to winter. Days start getting shorter and nights start getting longer as the winter solstice approaches. Learn more about seasonal changes in light exposure with this illustration.
- Can you think of any other autumn harvest festivals?
- Thanksgiving is probably the most familiar. Read more about Thanksgiving in the U.S. here.
- Mehregan is a Persian festival associated with the end of the harvest and financial seasons—just like Diwali.
- The Mid-Autumn Festival is considered “intangible cultural heritage” in China, and is also celebrated in Vietnam.
- Oktoberfest is a harvest festival associated with the autumn grain harvest in Germany.
- Sukkot is a Jewish festival associated with the autumn harvest.
- Samhain is an ancient Celtic celebration of the end of the autumn harvest season.
- Chuseok is a three-day harvest festival celebrated in the Koreas.
- Onam is another Indian harvest festival, this one celebrated largely by the people in the state of Kerala, honoring the traditional end of the rice harvest.
- Crop Over is a little-known festival on Barbados tracing its roots to the sugar cane harvest, and I love the name: direct and to-the-point! Read more about Crop Over here.
- Can you think of any other autumn or winter “festivals of light”?
- How can you celebrate Diwali in your home or school? (No fireworks allowed!)
- Watch a “Bollywood” movie! Just as many big-budget Western movies are released during the Christmas movie season, the commercial Hindi film industry releases blockbusters around Diwali. Read more about Bollywood (just search “Bollywood” in our encyclopedic entry on the cultural geography of Asia), or read this analysis on the Diwali film season. Here is a trailer for the biggest Diwali release this year, Prem Ratan Dhan Payo!
Nat Geo: Happy Diwali!
Nat Geo: Diwali—Festival of Light