Just recently (Oct. 26th to be exact) was Deepavali! For those of you that don't know, Deepavali is basically the Hindu version of Christmas. It is a time to come together with family to celebrate life and love, and of course, an excuse to EAT EAT EAT :) Because I am currently staying with a Chinese family (more on that later), I was put in an Indian family for a week so I could experience the culture first hand. It just so happens that I got to stay with my liaison's family, and my recent temporary family. Because I had stayed with them for a month and I had only left two weeks ago, I immediately fit right in.
The first thing we did was set up decorations around the house. The decorations are very simple, but definitely create the festive feel. They include colorful paper mobiles, bright flashing lights and metallic banners that read 'Happy Deepavali!' in both English and Tamil (shown above). In public places and a few houses they will to intricate designs in colored rice. (Below)
The second step in preparing for Deepavali is shopping!! It is the tradition that everyone must wear something new on Deepavali day. Most men will buy a simple shirt, or maybe a jippa. But the women take it to the next level and buy new EVERYTHING. This includes a new sari (a long piece of fabric tied around the body), bangles, necklaces, earring, henna, and bindi (worn on the forehead). They will also sometimes buy a new penjabi (what I wore) to wear later on in the day. The night before deepavali the clothes are left in front of the alter so they can be blessed.
|Jippa - for men|
|Sari, with bangles and bindi|
|Me in penjabi|
The last step in preparing for deepavali is cooking! It is tradition that the first meal of the day should always be eaten at home, so the mothers and daughter usually spend the day before preparing the meal. They also prepare lots of little snacks, such as ghee balls, coconut candy and murukku. Coconut candy is my personal favorite and I have included the recipe below :)
On deepavali day everyone in the family wakes up early to greet the sun (even though the younger generations are less keen on this), put on their new clothes and go to the temple. After the temple they go home and have the first meal together. After that the day is spent being visited or visiting friends and family. Some people have open houses and have people stop by, or some simply have a few relatives over for the day. Overall it is a very relaxing day, and my family even had nap time.
Similarly to Christmas, I feel the best part of Deepavali is the preparation beforehand. The shopping, the decorating, the cooking, etc. I had a lot of fun during the week and I am glad I got to experience it :)
|My host family at the temple on Deepavali morning|
|At the temple|
COCONUT CANDY RECIPE
2 3/4 cup sugar
3 cups shredded coconut (the fresher, the better)
1 can condensed milk
60 grams butter
2 pieces lemon grass
food coloring (optional)
buttered 8x8 pan
1. Mix the sugar and condensed milk in a round bottomed pan. Tie the two pieces of lemon grass into a knot and add them into the mix. Put on burner at low/medium heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Stir constantly to avoid burning. If it burns, turn down the heat on the stove.
2. Add the three cups of coconut to the milk and sugar. Make sure when you measure the coconut you compact it down, like you do when measuring brown sugar. Again, the more fresh the coconut is, the better.
3. Stir until the mix begins to stick together, when the coconut begins to absorb the sugar/milk. Constant stirring is essential because it will burn to the bottom of the plan very quickly. Before the mix hardens, food coloring may be added.
4. The test to make sure the mix is ready is when you can make a marble sized ball, drop it in a glass of water, and have it keep its ball shape. When the mix is to this point, add the butter (stir thoroughly) and take out the lemon grass.
5. Take off the burner and pour the mix into the pan. Spread the mix evenly over the pan.
6. Wait to cool and slice into small pieces.
7. Enjoy :)