Holi and Diwali are both Hindu holidays that are celebrated by Indians all over the world. While both of these festivals are celebrations of Hindu gods and goddesses, the reasons behind them and the ways they are celebrated couldn’t be more different.
Holi is the festival of colors and is celebrated in the spring every year with a giant chaotic color fight. Diwali is a calmer and more family-focused holiday that celebrates the victory of light over darkness by lighting candles and clay lanterns called diyas.
Holi and Diwali Dates
Holi and Diwali take place at opposite ends of the year. While Diwali takes place in autumn, Holi occurs in the spring. The timings of both festivals are determined by the Hindu lunar calendar meaning that the exact dates change from year to year.
Holi occurs the day after the last full moon of the Hindu month of Phalunga. This means that the holiday normally falls in March. In 2020, Holi will take place on March 10th. The bonfire of Holika Dahan will take place the night before.
Diwali takes place on the new moon day of the Hindu month of Kartik meaning that the festival usually falls in late October or November. This year Diwali will take place from November 12th to 16th with the main day of celebrations on November 14th.
Holi and Diwali Celebrations
The celebrations of Holi and Diwali have different focuses and also feel very different when you experience them as a traveler. During Holi, the main celebration is the color fight which is meant to be fun and get everyone smiling and laughing.
On the other hand, the celebrations of Diwali are more serious and family-focused. During Diwali, Indians will wear their nicest clothes and perform rituals to Lakshmi as well as exchange gifts and sweets.
Holi celebrations last for a period of two days. The first day of celebrations happens on the night of the full moon and is called Holika Dahan. On this day, firewood and flammable materials are gathered and placed in public spaces and parks. When night falls, effigies of the evil demon Holika are placed on the fire and burned to symbolize her defeat.
The second day of Holi is when the fun begins. People prepare colored powders, water, and water balloons and head to the streets to drench anyone they see. Temples that are dedicated to Lord Krishna often hold Holi events that include large color fights.
Diwali celebrations last for five days. The first day is known as Dhanteras and is when people clean their homes in preparation for the coming of goddess Lakshmi. It is also common to go to the markets and buy auspicious items like gold and silver.
The second day of Diwali is Chhoti Diwali, or little Diwali, when everyone decorates their homes with candles and string lights. It’s also common to make or buy Indian sweets on this day to give to friends and visitors.
The main day of Diwali is the third day. On this day, families get together and exchange gifts then eat a large meal. In the evening, a ritual is performed for Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and the famous diyas or clay lanterns are ceremoniously lit and burn throughout the night.
The fourth day is called Padwa and is dedicated to the love between spouses. Husbands and wives often exchange gifts on this day. The final day of celebrations is known as Bhai Duj and is dedicated to the bond between siblings. On this day, brothers and sisters get together to perform a special protection ritual and exchange gifts.
Holi and Diwali Decorations
Out of the two festivals, Diwali has a larger focus on decorations than Holi. While there are often colorful flowers hung in doorways during the celebration of the Festival of Colors, most of the decorating occurs naturally during the color fight by staining stones and streets brilliant shades of pink and red.
Diwali, on the other hand, is all about decorations and especially those that emit light. The Diwali clay lanterns or diyas are the main symbols of the holiday and can be seen in homes and streets flickering throughout the main night of celebrations.
Other common Diwali decorations include rangoli designs placed at the entrance of homes, string lights, candles, paper lanterns, and marigold garlands.