Indian or not, join in this unique, larger-than-life celebration.
It’s hard not to know about Diwali if you live in Hong Kong. For one, there are plenty of Indians here – from the well-settled Sindhis and Parsis (who have been here for a couple of generations), to the finance and computer science professionals (who are here as expats for a short stint). The other reason you may know a thing or two about Diwali is thanks to the popularity of Hindi films and their depiction of the festival. 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 (though they are likely to be smaller and at-home affairs this year, they will still be spectacular)! So how can and should you celebrate this bright and beautiful festival? Here’s the Sassy Mama guide to celebrating Diwali in Hong Kong.
Editor’s Note: The situation in Hong Kong regarding closures and restrictions on opening hours due to the coronavirus is constantly evolving. Many businesses are taking extra precautions, but please make sure you follow the latest government advice and stay home if you have recently travelled overseas, have interacted with anyone who has been away, or display any symptoms.
Diwali 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 Diwali celebration lasts five days. This year, it’s from Thursday, 12 to Monday, 16 November 2020. The first day is Dhanteras, when businesses in India mark the first day of their financial year. The second day is Chotti Diwali (small Diwali) that’s a lead up to the big celebration the following day. Saturday, 12 November 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. The 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!
Food and Indian festivals go hand-in-hand…if food isn’t the first thing that springs to mind when Diwali is mentioned, it must surely be the second! So start prepping for the festivities by ordering some special homemade sweets and savouries from any of our favourites below. Many of these come beautifully packaged and make for a lovely gift for a host.
If you want sweet boxes as a gift for your party hosts or to distribute to neighbours and colleagues, you could get in touch with some of the amazing Indian mamas across the city. Many of them enjoy keeping their home traditions alive and start preparing Diwali sweets a few weeks before the festival. Because these are home ventures, do make sure you get in touch with them well in advance. Contact Geeta’s Kitchen, Sonya Mool and Aarya’s Delight to find out what deliciousness they are cooking up this year.
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.
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).
The Mayfare group is also offering freshly-boxed Diwali sweets at both of its Indian restaurants, Gaylord and Gunpowder. These are available for pre-order now. The sweet options include two exciting new flavours, kaju pista (a cashew nut and pistachio sweet) and chocolate paan barfi along with favourites such as coconut rose barfi, boondi ladoo and a mixed box of all its goodies. Prices range from $150 to $350. Check out the Diwali Specials for more details.
This restaurant has much of what is offered across the city, along with some specialities from the South of India. If you’re a fan of the melt-in-your-mouth Mysore Pak (Sassy Mama tip: if this ghee-laden sweet melts before you can say the name, you have got yourself a sweet deal!) and Boondi laddoos, follow the restaurant’s Facebook page for details. Most orders require a three-day lead time.
From this weekend until Diwali, Bombay Dreams will be offering mixed mithai boxes from Thursday, 5 November. Call the restaurant to place your order now.
Diwali Dining And Catering Deals In Hong Kong
Besides sweets, Diwali is also about eating well. Thankfully, Hong Kong has plenty of Indian cuisine options when it comes to dining out or ordering in, so you can have a special festive dinner.
Chaiwala has a special Diwali menu for dinner from Monday, 9 to Sunday, 15 November. Expect samosas, pani puri, Bombay fried chicken, Dakshini prawns and a whole lot more. The Diwali menu is at $480 per person, with an additional $240 for a 2-hour free-flow.
All of November, Uncle Desi is offering three delicious set menus featuring all the favourites. These catering menus are available for parties of 5 to 20. The three menus (including a vegetarian one) range from $358 to $478 per person. Orders can be placed via GO or online at Uncle Desi Food & Sons starting Sunday, 1 November. In addition to the delicious dinner options from Uncle, there will be a selection of traditional handmade sweets (Besan Barfi, Besan Pinni, Kaju Barfi, Kala Jamun and more) available to add on for a limited time in two options (small $358 and large $500) to accommodate all party sizes.
Of course, if you and your family are fans of Indian food, you can expect a lot of specials throughout November at the other usual favourites too, including New Punjab Club, Jashan, Saravana Bhavan and Rajasthan Rifles.
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 StarMart, You Store, 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.
Shop Easy Superstore, Basement, Golden Crown Court, 66-70 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Shop Easy Superstore, Shop D, G/F & Basement, La Caine Mansion, 33 Caine Road, Mid-Levels, Central, Hong Kong
Shop Easy Superstore, Shop 3, 1/F, Coastal Skyline Centre, 12 Tung Chung Waterfront Road, Tung Chung, Lantau Island, New Territories, Hong Kong, 2488 8402, WhatsApp: 5205 2800, [email protected], www.facebook.com/shopeasyss
Spice Box Organics, 137 Caine Road, Shop 1, Golden Valley Mansion, Mid-Levels, Hong Kong, 2559 9887
Chungking Mansions, 36-44 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong
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. Be prepared to be dazzled by the collection of beautiful saris, lehengas and kurtas in rainbow shades. You will not want to leave any of the stores or sites without putting something into your basket (even more so, for your children!). 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.
Diwali In Hong Kong: Gifts
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.
If you are not sure where to shop for any of these gift items, it’s always a good idea keep an eye out for Diwali bazaars that pop up in Hong Kong from October every year. It’s also quite common to find Indian mumtrepreneurs advertising their hampers and gift items at this time of the year. If you haven’t done your shopping yet, you could make your way to GlamFest, a festive edition of the reputed Kowloon Bazaar on Thursday, 5 November 2020 at Kowloon Shangri-la Hotel. The organisers promise that they will cater to everyone’s resort, holiday and upcoming festive shopping requirements with bespoke fine jewellery, fashion designer Indian wear, wines, accessories and more.
Editor’s note: This post was originally written by Simran on 29, October 2013 and updated by Anita Balagopalan on 4, November 2020.
Featured image courtesy of Getty Images, image 1 courtesy of Anshu A via Unsplash, image 2 courtesy of Anshu via Flickr, image 3 courtesy of Mayfare Group, image 4 courtesy of Chaiwala, image 5 courtesy of Udayaditya Barua via Pexels, image 6 courtesy of Ethnica via Facebook, image 7 courtesy of Anita Balagopalan.