With so many Indians in Hong Kong, celebrating Diwali in the city can be a unique, larger-than-life experience. We tell you the history and customs of this Hindu Festival of Lights.
Hong Kong may be small but it sure houses a diverse community of people celebrating different festivities. And given the city’s number of Indians, it comes as no surprise to see the Indian diaspora embracing festivals like Diwali and flaunting glamours traditional attire. And of course, Hongkongers don’t need a reason to dress up and party, so chances are that you have been to (or been invited to) some of the parties happening across the city! So how can and should you celebrate this bright and beautiful festival? Here’s the Sassy Mama guide to celebrating Diwali in Hong Kong.
Diwali: The Background Of The Festival Of Lights
Diwali or Deepavali is known as The Festival of Lights and celebrates the triumph of good over evil. Legend has it that Lord Rama returned home after defeating the demon-king Ravana (perfectly timed with the end of a long period of exile imposed by his evil stepmother). The three major religions that celebrate Diwali include Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains but the reasons for their celebrations slightly vary.
The Diwali celebration lasts five days. This year, it’s from Sunday, 23 to Thursday, 27 October 2o22. Here’s a lowdown on what each day symbolises:
- First day: Dhanteras, when businesses in India mark the first day of their financial year.
- Second day is Chotti Diwali (small Diwali) that’s a lead up to the big celebration the following day.
- Third day is Diwali, the big daddy of Hindu celebrations almost everywhere in India. On this day, families worship Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth and have a pooja (prayer ceremony) in her honour.
- Fourth day has more low-key celebrations and is celebrated in different ways in various parts of India – it’s also considered the first day of the Indian New Year.
- The last day is Bhai Dooj, which is about the special brother-sister relationship.
In all, it’s five days of partying, prayer, being with family and friends, eating well, dressing up and gifting.
Each family has its own traditions, some call friends over for a game of poker and others love a Bollywood movie marathon. Follow our list below and maybe you can create your own Diwali traditions! But plan wisely – tradition says that whatever you are doing on the first day of the New Year is an indication of how you’ll spend the next 12 months!
Teaching Kids About Diwali
If you want to teach your kids more about Diwali, read them “Amma, Tell Me About Diwali” from the “Amma, Tell Me” series by Hong Kong-based author, Bhakti Mathur. These books are part of the library in almost all international schools in the city and narrate the stories of Indian mythology very easily to young learners.
Where To Buy Diwali Sweets In Hong Kong
Mid-levels Mamas can now place orders for their Diwali sweets at this Caine Road grocery store. Since DESI Bazaar opened on Caine Road it’s become a firm favourite amongst the Indian community (and other expats too!) for both its range of products and excellent customer service.
Gift Hampers – Diwali Hamper
Wondering how to make Diwali an extra special occasion? This gift hamper will keep the whole family happy and full, filled with seasonal fruits, a traditional gold Minakari dry fruit box , Godiva Chocolate G Cube Truffles and more! You can opt to add a bottle of Champagne or whisky to get the Diwali party started!
Find out more here.
This store is a good place to stock up on everything you need for Diwali, from boxes of the ever-popular kaju katli (sweet cashew nut paste) to the mixed mithai boxes, as well as beautifully decorated thalis (plates) and diyas (lamps). Sweet boxes will be available starting next week.
And One Of The Many Indian Grocery Stores
Indian grocery stores are scattered all across the city and majority of them will have Indian sweets right out at the front of the shops, yes they really are luring you in that way! It’s a win-win for all!
Diwali In Hong Kong: Festive Menus To Book
Chaiwala – Limited Diwali brunch menu
For only Saturday, 22 October and Sunday, 23 October, book your Diwali feast at Chaiwala to dip into its classic tandoors and small plates. The brunch set comes with add-on free flow options of Champagne or Prosecco and spirits, but if you’re looking for non-alcoholic options, there’s free flow lassi (can’t say no to that)!
When: Saturday, 22 October and Sunday, 23 October
Where: Basement, No. 43-55, Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong
How much: $398 per person; $298 for free-flow Champagne; $198 for the Classic free-flow; $120 for free-flow lassi
Contact: 2362 8988, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.chaiwala.hk
Dilliwale Diwali Party
Join this Indian restaurant at Causeway Bay for a fun-filled Diwali party that’ll be brimming with good food, Bollywood music, fun games with exciting prizes to win! The buffet dinner features famous chaats, street food and free flow drinks (alcoholic and non alcoholic)
When: Saturday, 22 October, from 7pm to 11pm
Where:9F Kyoto Plaza, 491-499 Lockhart Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
How much: $549 per person (with four hours free-flow); $499 (including three drinks)
Contact: 6073 4268, email@example.com, www.dilliwalehk.com
New Punjab Club
If you’re staying in for Diwali this year, New Punjab Club is back with its Dhanlakshmi (vegetarian) and Dhamaka (more meat centric) menus. The sets require a 24-hour pre-order and is fit to feed up to five people. Share joy and blessings further with a Mithai Box of Sweet Dreams from Chef Palash. Available at New Punjab Club and on GO from Monday, 17 to Monday, 24 October. The box comes with six handmade mithais with a slight twist.
Order the festive menus and mithai box on Black Sheep GO.
Rajasthan Rifles – Diwali Feast
Light up your Diwali with a journey up to The Peak! For one-night only, Rajasthan Rifles will be joining in the festivities with two special menus; Ravana and Rama. Ravana offers non-vegetarian dishes like Butter Chilli Crab, Mutton Ishtew and Tandoori Malai Jingha, whereas the Rama menu equally entices you with a colourful spread of Palak Kofta Curry, Paneer Pasanda Korma and Dal Curry. Don’t miss the mess hall’s very first mithai counter, displaying a well-stocked spread of 12 types of handmade sweets!
When: Monday, 24 October, from 6pm
Where: Shop G01, G/F, The Peak Galleria, 118 Peak Road, The Peak, Hong Kong
How much: $628 per person
Booking: Rajasthan Rifles
Contact: 2388 8874, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.rajasthanrifles.com
Uma Nota x Bengal Brothers Diwali Menu
Uma Nota and Bengal Brothers have teamed up for a vibrant and colourful, one night only Diwali evening on Sunday, 23 October, at Uma Nota on Peel Street. This one-night only menu will feature Indian delicacies such as Aloo Tikki Chaat, Lamb Seekh Kebab, Mango Phirni and more.
When: Sunday, 23 October, from 6pm
Where: 38 Peel Street, Central, Hong Kong
How much: $490 per person; additional $245 per person for free-flow cocktails and whisky
Contact: 2889 7576, email@example.com, www.uma-nota.com
Diwali In Hong Kong: Where To Buy Diyas, Candles And Lights
Most Indian stores across Hong Kong stock diyas (clay lamps) almost all year round. You can choose the plain ones and paint them with your kids for an easy and fun DIY craft exercise, or buy fancier decorative pieces. The good news is, these can be reused year on year.
Check what’s available online or in-store at Shop Easy and SpiceBox Organics. You can also make the trek up to the infamous Chungking Mansions to get a large stock of diyas from the stores there. But if that proves too much of a mission, you can always depend on places like The Candle Company or Candle Up to stock up on candles instead. Many of them are shaped like diyas and fit in perfectly well with the festival of lights. You can also find electric tea lights or fairy lights that you can put up around Diwali and keep on till Christmas.
Diwali In Hong Kong: Where To Buy Ethnic Indian Wear And Dresses
Now that we have checked off food and lights, let’s get you dressed for Diwali! You may not have many occasions to feel like an Indian Maharani, but this is one time of the year when too much bling feels just about right!
We are certainly not short of options in Hong Kong. If you are looking for a statement piece, look at Sanskrit where viewings are by appointment only. If you want something equally dazzling (both in detail and price!) but can wear even while mix-and-matching a Western look, check out Tabla. If you want something that you can wear not just on Diwali but also at your Indian best friend’s wedding, head to Kanta Trading Company or Nanak Clothes House.
If you are a fan of the graceful Indian saree, you must check the gorgeous collection at Ethnica. This mama-run venture has collected the finest hand-woven sarees from all parts of India and is sure to impress. Want to order from India? Our Indian Sassy Mama Editor loves the kids clothes from Little Muffet and the beautiful sarees and blouses from Suta (our lovely That Mama Bhakti Mathur is often seen looking gorgeous in sarees and blouses from Suta).
Diwali In Hong Kong: Gifts And Shopping At Diwali Bazaars
Diwali is a great time for gifting. Almost all the items mentioned above make for beautiful festive presents. It’s common to take sweet boxes and collections of dried fruits and nuts for friends, neighbours and colleagues. Candles and home decor items also make an excellent gifting choice.
Other standard Diwali gifts include decorative boxes and home accessories. Serving platters, bowls and porcelain items to gift to your host if you are invited to a Diwali get-together is also a regular pastime. You don’t always need to look for Indian or India-inspired gifts, but if you are an uncle or aunt giving a Diwali present to the little ones in the family, ethnic wear is always a good idea (Sassy Mama tip: Even if you are not Indian, if you are close friends of the family, you will become an Uncle or Auntie by default!).
For those near and dear to you, jewellery, gold and silver (often in form of coins with the images of Gods and Goddesses) are also good choices.
Light it Up – Diwali Bazaar 2022
Light it Up is a one-day festive bazaar that brings together small business vendors and mompreneurs selling Diwali-related products, ranging from ethnic clothing, jewellery and accessories to candles and traditional home decor to Indian spices and food products and everything else that one can think of buying to celebrate this beautiful Festival of Lights. This is not only a great one-stop-shop to grab all your Diwali essentials but also a great way to connect and network with women in business.
Date: Thursday, October 6, 2022
Location: Amazed Learning Centre, 77 Leighton Road , Hong Kong
Find out more here.
Editor’s note: This post was originally written in October 2013 by Simran, updated in October 2021 by Anita Balagopalan and most recently updated in September 2022 by Fashila Kanakka.