The pre-Deepavali season has already started. Some have already placed orders for jam tarts and kacang biscuit; while others are slowly starting to contemplate if they could have an open house this year. With all that is going on, I must say, Deepavali will never be the same ever, or at least until they find a vaccine for Covid-19. 

For years, the only way my family has celebrated Deepavali is by having an open house. My dad has this built in paranoia that, if we skip one year, then we will have to skip for the other two years and it will happen in a way that the choice won’t be in our hands. True to his words, we had three consecutive deaths in the family and for three years and we only had a small celebration. Can you imagine the terror on my dad’s face when we were discussing this year’s open house situation? I’ll give you a hint; he wasn’t happy! 

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I don’t know about you guys, but I love the holidays. New Year’s, Christmas, Raya and every other holiday just simply means one thing to me. FOOD and FUN. The holidays are a fantastic way of gathering around, sharing good food and collecting ang pow. Yes, as a true Malaysian, we all call it ang pow. How different will this year’s Deepavali be? 

Covid-19 has just simply proven to all of us that with time, things change. Did you ever think we could ever celebrate Deepavali in this manner before? The answer is maybe, but this year is going to be so so different. I foresee a slight progression in our community and I can only hope that we do not start a “Deepavali” wave. Covid-19 is also proof that we can definitely alter the culture that has been passed down to us. Let me share a personal story of mine. 

PC: The Indian Express

Growing up, I always questioned the credibility of our teachings, the form of culture and religion. Now, I must say, I DO NOT HAVE a strong knowledge in Hinduism and there are so many parts of our culture that I am yet to explore. However, I can daringly say some of the culture that my family has been practising came off to me as irrelevant to our current times. 

My family has always visited the temple in the morning and only after visiting the temple, we could eat breakfast. The idea is that we need to be “pure” while visiting the temple. I never believed in it because of two reasons. 

  1. Our thoughts and intentions are the most important thing. 
  2. That damn mutton curry that is waiting for me at home. 

Now, how will I ever focus on prayers so early in the morning when all I can think of is the delicious food at home! So, I decided to start my own tradition of eating from the padiyal and thanking god during the home prayers. I will not go to the temple because my personal belief is that god is everywhere. The liberation I felt when I first started doing this was amazing. While this worked for me, it definitely made my dad very upset. But oh well, as we all grow in life, things change. Who knows, I might find another way to celebrate Deepavali in the years to come. 

What is this year’s Deepavali looking like? 

As the cases are rising, it is evident that having an open house is nearly impossible. One can only hope that they can celebrate it with their family members, and even that we should be really thankful for. I urge you to skip the open house and get on board with a zoom call. Call your friends and family and you can share your funny jokes and laughter digitally. Transfer ang pow money through the many e-wallets that we use daily. It sounds so advanced but trust me, our frontliners are exhausted and we can do our part to reduce their burden. 

At the end of the day, all I am saying is that you do not need to follow a certain, fixed way of celebrating a holiday. Embracing the fluidity in life is what I believe in. If you do not give the space for a spontaneous plan, how will you ever know what works for you? Covid-19 is the unexpected plan. Now, regardless of your culture, you have got to abide by certain rules and the SOP set by the government. 

” Why is it that it is okay to alter our culture when the authorities set rules; but not okay if as individuals who just want to try out a new way of celebrating?” 

The society shames people who want to stand out of the system because they are different. I hope this year’s Deepavali sets a new benchmark for us Indians. May we understand that Covid-19 could be a catalyst of change for us. I hope that we realise the most important thing is to have a bond with our family members and not just do “temple visits” to show how much gold we possess. I hope this year’s Deepavali brings light into our lives in the most simplest way; through FOOD and FUN!