Diwali is in a few days and I can’t stop thinking about how the festival has evolved over the years. When I was a child, we used to go to our grandma’s house where our extended family would come together and celebrate the festival. The day would start with Ganga Snanam and prayers to God before we could even touch the sweets. I enjoyed watching crackers more than trying one by myself, but I had enough people around me who loved bursting crackers.

After moving to USA, Diwali had become so mundane and… blah. The first few years were tough especially when the Diwali day was nothing more than just another day. I missed my family more during festival times and Skype calls sometimes just made it worse.

After having kids, I realized that there is a reason why we decided to live in this country and, instead of cribbing, why not make the most of what we have? In the past few years, our Diwali celebrations have improved in such a way that my family was impressed when they visited us during one Diwali. Here are some ways NRIs can celebrate and enjoy this important Festival of Lights:

Send Diwali Cards to Friends and Family:

Receiving physical cards from our loved ones is much more exciting than an getting another email. When I was a child (yikes, am feeling really old when I say this J), I used to write greeting cards to my cousins and friends. I’d go to the store, pick the ones I like, write messages in my own handwriting, put a stamp and send it to friends and family.

People still do it for Christmas over here, right? Why not combine both and recreate the tradition for Diwali now?

Take a family portrait, print a Diwali greeting card with a family portrait and send to friends and family. If you have big kids, involve them in the process and make them write messages to their extended families. Post them ahead of time for them to receive it in time – hurry!

Take the Day Off and Celebrate with Close Friends:

For NRIs, friends are more of a family away from family. Not all of us are blessed with close families living nearby. Use this occasion to meetup with your close friends – even if they’re not Indian, why not introduce them? I still remember one special Diwali celebration couple of years back. One time, we all met at our friend’s house, cooked elaborate meals, played all day long and ended the celebration by watching an Indian movie in a theatre. If you have younger kids, it might be difficult to do all of this in one day, but at least meet with your close friends and celebrate in a way that works for you.

Remind them to Send Treats from India:

My family has been sending Diwali bakshanams (foods) from India and it’s something we look forward to every year. Not that we can’t get these things over here, but when we receive gifts from our loved ones from the homeland, it becomes very special. In my case, my whole family lives in India except me. We all miss each other and this package of clothes and bakshanams is something that makes my festival day brighter. Now even my kiddo looks forward to the package from his paati (nana).

Send Gifts to Family in India:

It goes without saying: send gifts to your immediate family to make their festival of lights even brighter. We all get excited and happy when someone thinks about us and sends gifts. Why not make our family happy by sending Diwali gifts to show them how much we still care?

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Diwali Decorations:

In our house, decorations start from October. First Diwali, then Thanksgiving and it ends in Christmas. (Last year, our son wanted to keep the Christmas tree till February. That’s another story for another time.) Personally, I am all about DIY creations and Pinterest has lots of ideas on Diwali DIYs. Even if you don’t have time or patience, you can buy some Diwali themes decorations from ETSY. Even just artificial thorans that we find in Indian stores can give a festive touch to your home.

Nearby Diwali Events:

Nowadays, multiple Diwali events are happening in the city where I live. A regionally-specific one, Diwali Mela (search Diwali under Events section in Facebook) and Temple Mela are some examples. Almost all of the time, they end the celebration with fireworks. And these events are always during weekends. The good thing is, this event is for the whole family and no one gets bored by attending a Diwali mela. My personal favorite is watching dance performances, while my husband’s favorite is hitting all the food stalls 🙂

Although these ideas are not equal to celebrating the festival with all our extended family in India, we still can create some special memories with our own family if we plan ahead and try the above ideas. My first kid is 3 years old and is starting to understand festivals and special occasions now. I can’t wait to create some special memories again during this Diwali!

Wishing you all a wonderful Diwali, no matter where you are!

Note: this post is in collaboration with OxigenUSA.