Diwali or Deepavali is celebrated to mark the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness.
It is celebrated with much grandeur, splendour and loads of amazing food by Hindus all over the world.
Diwali also marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year, and this is an ideal time to make a new start in all aspects of one’s life.
Diwali brings with it a host of customs and traditions, some, have been changed and adapted to suit modern and western lifestyles.
The custom and tradition of exchanging gifts, offers one an opportunity to revive and strengthen the bonds of personal and social relationships.
These gifts usually comprised of homemade mitais (sweets) and these mitais symbolise –‘let bygones be bygones and create a ‘sweet and harmonious’ bond amongst friends and family.
Mitais are generally made with ghee, milk, cream, and sugar, lots of almonds, pistachios and saffron. All of these ingredients symbolise ‘purity’.
The process of preparing these delicacies would start 5-6 days before Diwali and the mitais prepared at home truly surpass the taste and quality of store bought varieties.
I remember while growing up in Stanger on the Kwa Zulu North Coast, our home was transformed into a caterer’s kitchen, because my grandfather would want to distribute between 45-60 mitai parcels to friends and family (fortunately for us “Stanger” was a small town).
My grandmother and mother prepared the mitais, and Chana Magaj, Burfee, Ladoo, Goolab Jamboo were amongst the most popular items.
They also prepared savouries like chevra (Indian snack comprising of fried peanuts, rice crispies, corn flakes and spices), sev and nuts (deep fried chick pea batter that resembles spaghetti).
The night before Diwali it was our (my 3 sisters and myself), duty to prepare the 45-60 fancy parcels of mitai, and ensure that each one was hand delivered.
Today’s Western influences
Today with western influence and time constraints, the gifts that are exchanged, are store bought chocolate, sweet and dried fruit hampers, which are sometimes delivered by paid courier services.
It’s sad that some (especially our younger generations) now miss out on the fun and close family experiences by making the mitais.
To those celebrating Diwali a heartfelt “DIWALI MUBARAK” and those celebrating the Hindu New Year “SAAL MUBARAK”
Articlw written by Usha Singh, food blogger of Healthy Vegetarian Foods.