Widely observed by members of the Hindu, Sikh, and Jain faiths, Diwali is an annual five-day festival that is one of the most extravagantly celebrated happenings in South Asia. The festival usually falls around late October/early November — around the time of harvest — and coincides with the new moon between the lunar month of Ashwin and Kartika. During Diwali, those celebrating will be surrounded by beautifully lit oil lamps, a cheerful exchange of gifts, and lavish desserts from ghee-soaked laddoos to nut-studded rice puddings. The oil lamps are lit to symbolize light driving away from the darkness, and people meet each other to exchange gifts and good wishes.
More recently, Diwali has also become a cultural event that is increasingly gaining prominence in the United States. It is a fixture on New York-North New Jersey’s multicultural calendar, celebrated by vibrant South Asian communities. This year, the five-day celebration runs from November 10th to November 14th — with the most important day, Diwali, landing on November 12th. For those curious about Diwali traditions, we have rounded up a list of local fun events + activities around the North Jersey area to observe the Diwali festival locally.
Please note: These events are included editorially as a community resource. The Montclair Girl is not affiliated with the following events. For the most up-to-date and accurate information, including cancellations due to inclement weather, please contact the host directly. Know of another event? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
House Cleansing + Decorating
In the days leading up to Diwali, celebrants often prepare by deep cleaning and decorating their houses. Legend has it that Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity and wealth, only graces clean and tidy homes. Decluttering and cleaning also help manage stress and boost mood.
After cleaning, the houses are lit with Diya, or oil lamps, which can be bought at local markets. Many people decorate their floors with rangoli, intricate patterns made of candles, colored rice, or flower petals. In fact, rangoli-making can be a bonding activity that all family members, including small children, can participate in. Here is a fun guide on how to make rangoli with all-natural dyes.
Read More: There’s a New Indian Restaurant in Montclair
The Art of Indian Dance Class
To get into the upbeat Diwali mood, join an Indian dance class at a local dance studio. Sonalee’s Dance Studio in Edison and Nritya Creations Academy of Dance in Iselin teach various genres of dances, including Bhangra and Bollywood, as well as fitness classes with Indian dance choreography. During the lead-up to Diwali, there are sessions featuring choreography to famous Bollywood tracks.
Food is an essential part of the Diwali celebration. Little morsels of fried snacks including samosas, chaat, Pakora, and many more are nibbled throughout the day with masala chai. Rich, elaborately-prepared meals are shared daily among families, which often consist of creamy dals; aromatic curries, puffy fritters fried in ghee; and smooth, richly-spiced puddings.
For snacks, head to local markets like Narmada Indian Groceries in Clifton or Go Fresh Produce Market and Indian Groceries in Paramus where shoppers can mix and match small portions of Indian street food cheerfully displayed in glass cases.
For authentic Indian cuisine in the area, there are tons of great options that include Apna Punjab Indian Restaurant in Bloomfield, Tashan: Divine Indian Dining in West Caldwell, Jalwa in Montclair, BayLeaf Redefined Indian Cuisine in South Orange, and Tandoori Chef 2 in Maplewood.
Mithai, or Indian sweets, are perhaps the most looked-forward-to part of the Diwali food tradition. The sweets come in countless variations but are all enjoyable for their warm, nutty flavors, thanks to the generous use of ghee, nuts, dried fruit, and tropical spices.
A popular spot for Mithai in the area is Jain Foods in Linden. Try the kulfi, nutty, aromatic “Indian ice cream” for an indulgent treat. The eatery also has a dazzling selection of savory snacks.
November 8th | –
Kids can join a fun Diwali-style class. They will be able to make chocolate diya, pretzel sparklers, and mini gujiya filled with brownies. Click here to learn more.
Diwali: A Festival of Lights 2023 | 2 East 61st Street, New York
November 10th | 5:30PM – 9PM
Perrine at The Pierre Hotel is bringing back their annual celebration. There will be Indian cuisine on-site and guests will enjoy the ambiance made with different lighting. Click here to learn more.
Bollywood Diwali Dhamaka 2023 | 1673 Oak Tree Road, Edison
November 10th | 10PM
Diwali Pop-Up | 250 Old River Road, Edgewater
November 11th | 10AM – 12PM
Join a family Diwali play date led by Nisha Vedi Pawar. She will guide kids through Diwali cookie decorating. Also, author Raakhee Mirchandani will read from her book, “My Diwali Light” and engage kids in a discussion.
Diwali Party | 149 7th Street, Brooklyn, New York
November 12th | 7:30PM
Comedians Maya Deshmukh and Arti Gollapudi are hosting once again the yearly celebration of Diwali. There will be a celebration of lights with a performance featuring a lineup of comedians followed by a dance party with music from DJ Rekha. Click here to learn more.
Light Up The Hudson: New Jersey’s Diwali Extravaganza | 550 Avenue, Weehawken
November 17th | 7PM – 11PM
November 18th | 5PM
Baria Diwali | 1050 King Georges Post Road, Woodbridge Township
November 18th | 5:30PM
Families are invited to participate in this celebration of lights. There will be live music, cuisine, and a festival with lights. Click here to learn more.