Diwali, the festival of lights, was Saturday. It is a huge national holiday in India. People put lights on their houses and, often, clean and paint their homes. They wear new clothes and light candles called diyas to represent the light within. It has been fun and interesting to experience this holiday that, honestly, I did not know much about before moving here (go to wikipedia for more info). Leading up to the holiday were lots of melas, or fairs, set up to sell Diwali gift items such as sweets, food, clothes, candles and works of art. I bought a food gift basket for our housekeeper, who also gets a month's salary for the holiday (a standard practice here), and a basket of chocolates and candles for our landlord, who in return gave us a nice glass bowl full of cookies. All last week, there was work being done on our building. The front entrance was painted, the front walkway was cleaned with an impressively large machine. Our gate was freshly painted. Lights were put up.
We had the nice surprise of coming home, after a walk on Saturday evening, to our own gate decorated with flowers and diyas leading up to our door. We have a really nice landlord.
Our neighbor strung lights on their bushes then filled their side and front walls with candles. A beautiful sight, all those candles.
The neighbors on the other side put lights up and down their building, as did many, many other buildings in our neighborhood. It's very tame compared to how Americans decorate their homes in December, but very nice to see all these homes lit up at night.
Once the sun set, the city filled with the sound of blasting firecrackers and fireworks. There was no main fireworks show like on the 4th of July in cities across the States (at least, I don't think there was one), but it seemed, or rather, sounded like every person in every home all over Delhi was, one by one, setting off firecrackers. This is a city of millions upon millions. It was loud and lasted all night long.