The Ultimate Guide To Diwali In The UK
Diwali — also known as Deepavali, or the Festival of Lights — is an important occasion for many in the UK Hindu, Sikh, and Jain communities, as well as people of other faiths. Originating in India, Diwali is celebrated for a range of different reasons — and the UK is home to some of the biggest celebrations outside India.
Here, find out everything you need to know about Diwali in the UK.
What is Diwali?
Diwali is a celebration of faith in many religions. For Hindus, Diwali marks the day Rama (an incarnation of the god Vishnu) defeated Ravana, the demon king. It’s also associated with many other gods and goddesses, including Lakshmi, Krishna, and Ganesha.
The Sikh festival of Bandi Chhor Divas festival coincides with Diwali, and marks the release of 52 prisoners by the sixth Guru of Sikhs, Guru Hargobind.
For Jains, Diwali marks the liberation of Mahavira's soul, the last Jain Tirthankara.
Many faiths celebrate Diwali and other traditions in similar ways. Common ways to celebrate Diwali include lighting candles and setting up fairy lights in and around the home, as well as releasing lanterns and holding firework displays. This represents light overcoming darkness, and good overcoming evil.
When is Diwali in the UK?
The date of Diwali changes each year, but is always celebrated on the darkest night of the month in October or November, coinciding with the new moon.
Celebrations usually last five or six days, with the third day marking the main festival of Diwali.
In the UK, Diwali isn’t a public holiday — but many people who observe it will book time off work to celebrate with friends and family.
How is Diwali celebrated in the UK?
In the UK, Diwali is celebrated in similar ways to other countries around the world. In cities like London and Leicester, where there are large Hindu, Sikh, and Jain populations, celebrations are held with live performances and activities for families.
Of course, it’s not necessary to attend a large group gathering to celebrate Diwali. In the UK, many families choose to stay at home with friends. You can mark the occasion by:
- Setting up a firework display in your garden.
- Painting henna tattoos on your hands.
- Exchanging gifts with friends and family.
- Decorating your house with lights and candles.
Some workplaces may also celebrate Diwali by organising an Indian food buffet for staff, educating employees about the meaning of Diwali, or offering flexible bank holidays so staff can choose which holidays they want to work.
The five days of Diwali
Here’s what traditionally takes place on each of the five days of Diwali:
- Day one: People clean their homes in preparation for the occasion, and to mark the new beginnings celebrated by Diwali.
- Day two: People begin to decorate their homes with fairy lights, lanterns, and candles. You might also create rangoli patterns on the ground.
- Day three: The main day of Diwali. Families get together to pray to the goddess Lakshmi in a prayer known as Lakshmi puja. This is usually followed by fireworks and feasting with friends.
- Day four: The first day of the new year, when families and friends exchange gifts.
- Day five: On the final day of the festival, families continue to visit one another to spread joy and share the celebrations.
Saving up for Diwali
Like all big celebrations, Diwali can be an expensive festival. Gifts, fireworks, and travelling to see friends and family — these costs can all add up. So it’s a good idea to start saving for Diwali as soon as you can.
Joining or starting a money club (also known as a chit fund, visi, or kameti) is a great way to start planning for Diwali. And with Bloom, you can manage your club from your phone, so it’s easy and safe to contribute and get paid.
Diwali in the UK: FAQs
Learn more about Diwali in the UK in these frequently asked questions.
Is Diwali a holiday in the UK?
No, Diwali isn’t a public holiday in the UK. Children often go to school if the festival falls on a weekday, and working adults will need to request time off.
Where is the biggest Diwali festival in the UK?
London and Leicester are home to the biggest Diwali celebrations in the UK. In London, large celebrations are held in Trafalgar Square. In Leicester, visit Belgrave Road (also known as the Golden Mile) to see the street lined with lights, as well as singing, dancing, and other performances.
How many people celebrate Diwali in the UK?
According to the 2021 UK census, there are around 1.5 million Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains in the UK. Most of those who identify with these faiths are likely to celebrate Diwali, Bandi Chhor Divas, or other similar festivals.