BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - This afternoon the Berkeley Heights YMCA was filled with flashes of color, sounds of sitars and pure jubilation as The Summit Area YMCA in partnership with The Berkeley Heights Diversity Council held their third annual Diwali Festival.
Children and adults enjoyed an afternoon of ceremonial music and dance, henna applications, arts and crafts, games and the opportunity to learn the story of Diwali and its many ceremonial rituals and customs.
“Diwali brings everyone in India together no matter their background. It is celebrated all across India, maybe in different ways, but everyone celebrates it… It is a national holiday, just like Christmas the kids get a week off of school and everything is closed,” said Krishma Patel, one of the event organizers. Diwali is a five day long festival that celebrates good triumphing over evil and light over darkness. The exact dates change every year and are determined by the position of the moon, typically falling in October or November.
The Diversity Council’s partnership with The YMCA has allowed for more space and more volunteers to help plan and actualize the annual celebration. “Diwali was the very first event that we ever did for The Diversity Council, so to see how big it has grown is amazing,” said Toiya Facey, one of the founding members of the Berkeley Heights Diversity Council. “This is the third year at The Y, but this is the fifth year that we have done Diwali.”
The corridors were full of anticipation and excitement as performers lined up outside the gym doors. Groups of dancers and musicians, recruited from local dance and music schools, immersed the audience in Indian culture. Down the hall, children enjoyed some sweet treats, arts and crafts and the photo booth. “It is a really fun event for us because it brings everyone in the community together, it brings people of all cultures together, not just the Indian culture,” said Francesca Garrard, Programming Director for the Berkeley Heights YMCA. “It is a learning opportunity for a lot of people and it is a lot of fun. It’s very important and follows our mission to be diverse, inclusive and global.”
So how do you wish someone a happy Diwali, you might be wondering? Just simply, Happy Diwali! The hope for light over darkness, hope over despair, and victory of good in the world.
Click here for photo gallery by Natalie Chin.