Large-scale festivities are returning for Diwali this year. In countries such as India, where the festival of lights is a major event, many wait until now to splash out on big purchases such as jewellery, televisions, cars and even homes.
Symbolising the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness, Diwali usually falls in early autumn, coinciding with the new moon, deemed the darkest night of the Hindu lunar calendar. This is why dates change every year.
This year, celebrations begin on November 10 with Dhanteras, with the "main Diwali" on the third day, on November 12. It is an official holiday in many countries.
While for many, Diwali honours the Hindu goddess of wealth Lakshmi, with lights and lamps said to welcome her and bring prosperity, for others it celebrates the return of the deity Ram to Ayodhya, having rescued his wife Sita from the clutches of the demon king Ravana.
How is Diwali celebrated?
Predominantly a Hindu festival, other faiths including Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists also celebrate Diwali. On the first day of celebrations, called Dhanteras, Hindus clean their homes and workplaces, symbolising renewal. Diyas or earthen lamps filled with oil are lit for the next five days and homes are decorated with lights and lanterns.
Many consider the day auspicious to make major purchases, from cars to equipment. Jewellery, especially gold to appease goddess Lakshmi, is often bought, with jewellery shops in India usually enjoying massive surges in sales on the day.
Doorways and entries to offices are also decorated with rangolis, the colourful designs made from flower petals, coloured rice or sand, meant to bring good luck. Last year, Diwali celebrations were also held at 10 Downing Street in London, the official residence of UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who is of Indian heritage.
On the second day, called "chhoti Diwali" or small Diwali, a variety of Indian sweets are made at home or bought and then exchanged along with gifts to friends and family.
The third day of Diwali, often called the main Diwali, is when those celebrating wear new clothes or their best outfits and light fireworks. Parties and special events are held everywhere to mark new beginnings. The fourth day is mostly ritualistic, with many celebrations coinciding with the end of the harvest season.
The last day of the festival is called Bhai Dooj, or brothers' day, and marks the bond between sisters and brothers. Similar to Raksha Bandhan, where sisters tie symbolic charms around their brothers' wrists to ward off evil, during Bhai Dooj, brothers often travel to meet their sisters. On this day, sisters feed their brothers with their hands and receive gifts in return.
Commercial significance of Diwali
Workers often receive bonuses and special gifts ahead of Diwali while sales of coins and bars, purchased as investments, surge.
RedSeer, a Bangalore-based consultancy firm, which monitors more than 100 platforms covering 90 per cent of online sales, predicts virtual shoppers will spend a record $11 billion during the month to mid-November – which would be nearly 20 per cent more than last year.
Amazon India has made a record start to the peak period in the shopping calendar, country manager Manish Tiwary told Reuters, reporting 95 million customer visits in the first two days of its "Great Indian Festival 2023" campaign.
At Flipkart, owned by Walmart, sales of electronic products, lifestyle garments and furniture were seven to ten times higher than in the pre-festival period, vice president Arief Mohamad said.
Both retailers have hired more than 200,000 temporary workers to meet the rush and added more than 300,000 new sellers.
Diwali in the UAE
Rangoli making competition and more at Chutney's Restaurant, Dubai
The casual Indian dining spot in Bur Dubai has prepared five days of Diwali festivities, beginning with a rangoli-making competition on Wednesday.
Until Sunday, the restaurant is serving a Diwali set menu available for lunch and dinner starting at Dh150. Dishes include tikona chaat, dal bukhara and murgh nihari. Throughout the five-day affair, there will be a traditional dress competition, a chef's special dessert counter and a Bollywood karaoke night.
Wednesday to Sunday, noon-midnight; set menu starts at Dh150 for vegetarians, Dh160 for non-vegetarians; Movenpick Hotel and Apartments, Bur Dubai; 04 336 6000
Nine-course dinner at Rang Mahal, Dubai
The JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai restaurant is serving a nine-course set menu on Sunday, plus an optional beverage pairing.
The meal starts with a denatured duo of imitation olive and truffle naan, as well as a combo of warm sweet potato, pineapple carpaccio and seasoned yoghurt with tamarind chutney. The next course features smoked salmon with mustard marinade and apple slaw, followed by prawns and sago crackers topped with black tobiko and gold leaf.
There is also lamb stuffed chilli and vegetable cornetto, braised chicken with coastal sauce and rice crisp, as well as pistachio coated lamb chops with chana masala. For dessert, the restaurant is serving peanut parfait with chocolate swirls and nougatine.
There is a vegetarian option as well, which has dishes such as cottage cheese with sorrel leaf pickle and braised wild mushrooms.
Available from Sunday, 6pm-midnight; Dh375 per person; JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai; 04 414 0000
Three-course dinner at Angar, Abu Dhabi
The restaurant at W Abu Dhabi, Yas Island, will be transformed with Diwali-themed decor until November 15, and diners can order a limited-edition three-course set menu.
It starts with a plate of samoas with chickpeas, yoghurt, chutneys and spices or tandoori chicken wings. For the main course, guests can choose between a classic butter chicken or dal makhani, a roasted aubergine dish with creamy black lentils – both are served with rice or naan.
Friday to Wednesday, 6pm-11pm; Dh229 per person; W Abu Dhabi, Yas Island; 02 656 0000
Win gold bars at World Trade Centre Abu Dhabi
Until Sunday, shoppers at World Trade Centre Abu Dhabi have the chance to win gold bars with every purchase of Dh100 or more at participating stores.
QR codes are spread across the mall for mall visitors to upload their receipts to join the spend-and-win Diwali promotion. There is a daily draw every day with one lucky winner of a 500g 24-karat gold bar.
Until Sunday, 8am-midnight minimum spend of Dh100; World Trade Centre Abu Dhabi; wtcad.ae
Sweet treats at Kamat
Gold bars aside, festive sweets are also a commonly given gift.
Kamat is selling Diwali gift hampers and boxes across its nine outlets in the UAE. Options include mawa and besan-based delicacies and a range of gourmet chocolates. A classic box includes gud padi, mysore pak and butter scotch barfi among other flavours, and starts at Dh65 for a small box.
Customers can also opt for a premium box with dried fruit sweets such as pista wati and gud katli. There are 30 flavour options to choose from in this category, which starts at Dh75 for a small box. There is also a gourmet chocolate range, with mango chilli white chocolate and apricot almond milk chocolate.