With one of the largest retail networks in the UK, Post Office branches serve customers from diverse communities. Many customers and teams in branch will be celebrating Diwali, or the Festival of Lights this week, an important festival for hundreds of thousands of Hindus, Sikhs and Jains across the UK. The festivities last for five days, ending on 27 October this year.
Here Tony Sanghera, Area Manager – Retail Network (Leicester), talks about what Diwali means to him.
How do you celebrate?
“Me and my family celebrate with lighting special lamps called Diyas and candles, decorating our home, shopping for gifts, fireworks displays, eating delicious feasts with many traditional sweets. Also with puja (our word for prayers) and by going to the Mandirs and Gurdwaras (temples).”
What foods are your favourites to enjoy, or traditional at this time?
“My favourite foods to enjoy at Diwali are samosas, Aloo Tikki (an Indian take on a potato fritter), Barfi (squares of a soft, crumbly sweet made from milk and sugar) and Laddoos (a sweet made from lentil flour, sugar and pumpkin seeds)."
What does it mean to our local communities?
“One of the biggest Diwali celebrations outside India is here in the UK, in Leicester. Last year over 40,000 people came to see them switch on 6,000, beautiful lights. Many postmasters in Leicester got behind this event, with special retail displays and greetings. MoneyGram put posters in bus shelters all over Leicester.”
Let us know how you'll be celebrating in the comments below.
Diwali Fact File
- The word Diwali is derived from the Sanskrit word Dipavali, meaning ‘row of lighted lamps’
- The date depends on the lunar calendar and position of the moon – this year it ends on 27 October. Diwali also marks the start of the Hindu New Year
- The festival has different significance for each faith, but the main themes that run through are the celebration of good over bad, victory over evil, light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance and hope over despair
- In Hinduism, Diwali marks a welcome to Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity, to the home
- For Sikhs, Diwali is important because it celebrates the release from imprisonment of Guru Hargobind and 52 other princes, in 1619
- In Jainism, Diwali marks the spiritual awakening of Lord Mahavira in 527 BCE – in the Jain calendar, New Year is also celebrated at this time
- The five-day festival starts with Dhanteras (a celebration of wealth) and ends with Bhai Dooj (a celebration of brothers and sisters). With busy working lives here in the UK, and for those with big families, it's often extended over a few weekends
- Diwali is an official holiday in many countries like Fiji, India and Sri Lanka
- For film fans, there is an all-singing and dancing Bollywood movie release each year to be enjoyed with the family.