Selamat Hari Deepavali! Diwali valthukkal! Happy Divali!
Deepavali was this week, one of the major Indian holidays. It’s known as the festival of light, and it’s famous for lots of lights, kolam, murukku, Open Houses, cookies, and angpao gifts of money for students.
We had a Deepavali celebration on Wednesday after school put on by Kelab Rukun Negara, the club that all of the non-Malay students are a part of. We dressed up in sarees and watched students do traditional dances, and we went up and sort-of danced with them. We each (us and the Indian students) received angpao, envelopes with small gifts of money and then ate. An Italian AFS student and a local volunteer (who is a festival host daughter of my host family and was a returnee from AFS in the US!) came from the state of Terrenganu for Deepavali short-term exchanges. For Deepavali, all AFS students in Malay or Chinese host families got to go live with an Indian family for the week. Most students came to our state, Perak.
Before we could officially begin Deepavali on Saturday, we had to do a lot of preparations. We started by washing all of our clothes and laundry, and then cleaning the entire house: washing curtains, windows, floors, bathrooms, the fridge, pretty much everything. A big part of Deepavali is having new beginnings— cleansing our lives of the old and welcoming in new light.
Buying new clothes is important for Deepavali as well, which is why we went to a clothing store with students from school whose families couldn’t afford new clothes (as I mentioned in my post about the previous week).
Once the house was all clean, the fun part could begin!
Thursday, after cleaning, we went to Ipoh for the AFS handing-over ceremony. AFS students and 18+ Volunteers from throughout Malaysia came to be sent to their Deepavali host families in Perak for five days.
After the ceremony, we went to a football game! It was a finals match, the Perak state team vs. the Malaysia Indian Football Association (MIFA). We stayed for half of the game, and it was so fun! We sat with the Indian fans, and everyone was very enthusiastic and cheered a lot. (Apparently MIFA won 2-1). I was so excited to go to a professional football game in a country that takes football (by which I mean soccer, of course) this seriously.
After that, we went to Little India in Ipoh to buy cookies, shirts for Appa and Anne, and other supplies for Deepavali.
The next day, we resumed cleaning and preparations.
Later, I made kolam using flour. Traditionally, every Indian family (well, the female members) makes kolam art in front of the house for Deepavali. Ying used a premade mold to place colored stones.
The following day, Saturday, was officially Deepavali.
The first Deepavali custom was an oil bath— the elders of the house rub oil on the younger family members and each other, and then everyone sits in the hot sun for a bit early in the morning. We woke up late, and it was overcast anyway, so we just did an abridged version of rubbing oil and didn’t sit outside.
We were too late to go to the temple (Hindu temples are open until noon each day and then again in the evening. This is customary everywhere) so we just took pictures in our lovely new Deepavali clothes.
Later that night, we visited open houses of our neighbors and family friends. Open houses are pretty much what they sound like, with guests usually seated in the front room, offered drinks and cookies from the impressive display of Deepavali biscuits laid out on the front table in every Indian house. My family didn’t host an open house this year in remembrance of some Tapah Indians who died in a hospital fire in Johor the week before.
I’ll post an update of the next week soon!