Beautifully-lit oil lamps, a cheerful exchange of gifts, lavish desserts from ghee-soaked laddoos to nut-studded rice puddings — happy Diwali! The annual five-day festival, Diwali, is one of the most extravagantly celebrated festivals in South Asia. Diwali is widely observed by members of the Hindu, Sikh, and Jain faiths. It usually falls in late October or early November, around the time of harvest, and coincides with the new moon between the lunar month of Ashwin and Kartika. 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 October 22nd – 26th — with the most important day, Diwali, landing on October 24th. 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 affiliate with the following events. For the most up-to-date and accurate information, including cancellations due to inclement weather, please contact the host directly.
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. This year, home cleaning has taken on greater significance, and not only because the pandemic calls for extra attention to sanitation! 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.
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.
Diwali Lighting at Empire State Building | 20 W 34th Street, New York City
Witness The Empire State Building be lit in traditional Diwali colors. Click here to learn more.
Diwali in Manhattan | 25 First Avenue, New York
October 24th | 6PM – 9PM
Bhakti Center’s Diwali Mela celebration offers traditional Indian musical dance performances, food stalls featuring Indian street food and drinks, henna stall, and more. Registration is free. Click here to learn more.
Diwali 2022 | 10 Riverside Boulevard New York
October 24th | 7PM – 8PM
Join The Culture Tree and Amateur Astronomers Association to celebrate Diwali at Waterline Park. No registration is required. Click here to learn more.
Diwali: A Cultural Celebration | 51 Conforti Avenue, West Orange
October 25th | 3PM – 6PM
This free event will feature authentic Indian cuisine, live music, and family-friendly activities. Click here to learn more.
Diwali Masti 2022 | 1171 King Georges Post Road, Edison
October 29th | 7PM
Myraa Entertainment’s celebration fuses traditional and modern with a DJ, Indian street food, and so much more. Tickets are $70. Click here to learn more.
Sunav Diwali Function 2022 | 200 Penhorn Avenue, Secaucus
October 29th | 4PM – 11PM
Garba Raas will be giving live performances at this event. RSVP is required. Click here to learn more.
Light Up Montclair | 3 S Mountain Avenue, Montclair
October 30th | 2PM – 6PM
AAPI Montclair and Montclair Art Museum (MAM) will host the second annual Light Up Montclair, a Diwali celebration open to the public at Montclair Art Museum — located at 3 South Mountain Avenue in Montclair. Click here to learn more.
Funny Tikka Masala — Hinglish Standup Comedy Diwali 2022 | 176 Bleecker Street, New York
November 5th | 9PM – 12AM
This comedy show features Hinglish (a mix of Hindi in English). Honest NYC is hosting this Diwali celebration with these desi comics, who have performed across the globe and have been on Netflix, Amazon, and comedy clubs across the city. Click here to learn more.