According to Wikipedia, "Deepavali or Diwali, popularly known as the festival of lights, is an important five-day festival in Hinduism, Jainish and Sikhism, and occurring between mid-October and mid-November. Diwali commemorates the return of Lord Rama along with Sita and Lakshman from his fourteen year long exile and vanquishing the demon-king Ravana. In joyous celebration of the return of their king, the people of Ayodhya, the Capital of Rama, illuminated the kingdom with earthen diyas (oil lamps) and burst crackers."
Growing up in India, Diwali was an especially special festival for me. Diwali for me meant,
a) Sweets. Lots and lots of sweets of different sizes, shapes and colors. We would stuff ourselves till we couldn't look at one more sweet. India being so multicultural, you would always find a different of sweet in each house we visted.
b) Fireworks. In fact, my sister and I wouldn't bother buying too many of our own. Instead, we would sit out at night, and watch the brilliant display of fireworks over the entire city.
c) Diyas. These are little earthern lamps that hold oil and a wick. We would decorate the perimeter of our house with these lamps. It was hard work, but the result was breathtaking. These days people use lights instead, but there is something quite magical about the flickering light of oil lamps.
d) Vacation!! We got 3 weeks off from school which was like icing on the cake.
I do miss those lovely days spent with family. It is said that during Diwali, Goddess Laxmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity visits your house. I hope She visits us this time, because we could use some wealth for fertility treatments!!
So here's wishing you all a time filled with happiness, prosperity and good health. Happy Diwali friends.