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, HKers 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 spectacular parties happening across the city! So how can and should you celebrate this bright and beautiful festival? Here’s all that’s hot and happening in the 852.
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 Friday, 25 October to Tuesday, 29 October 2019. 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. Sunday, 27 October 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.
Mama-run Home Ventures
With more than five decades of cooking experience, you know that Geeta knows what she’s doing! She doesn’t have a fancy website but promises to cook up almost anything you want. Don’t miss out on ordering the famous Gulab Jamun (a sweet dumpling, served with syrup) or Dhokla (a steamed gram flour snack) from the extensive menu for just $8 per gulab jamun and $120 per plate of dhokla with 20 pieces.
Geeta’s Kitchen, 2368 6997, www.facebook.com/geetakitchen
Sonya Mool’s Diwali sweet menu this year includes Milk Pedas (milk sweets – $16 each, minimum order of 12) and Rose Petal Nankhatai (a rich and soft butter cookie garnished with rose petals – $15 each, minimum order of 12). If chocolates and peanut brittle are more your thing, you can check out the rest of the menu here.
Sonya Mool, 9816 9430, www.instagram.com/sonyamool
Mum of two, Jessica Tilani, specialises in making chocolates, cakes, mithais and modaks (another traditional Indian sweet). This Diwali, she is introducing a “Pataka Mithai Box” (with items that look like Indian firecrackers) along with the popular Sugar-free Healthy Powerpack Mithai.
Aarya’s Delight, 9238 0110, www.facebook.com/aaryasdelight
Stores & Restaurants
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 festive season will hit the store by the second week of October so get your order in soon.
Spice Store, 2944 2336, WhatsApp: 9888 3559, www.spicestore.hk
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 (quick 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 $350 upwards. Call the restaurant to place your order now.
Bombay Dreams, 4/F, Carfield Building, 77 Wyndham Street, Hong Kong, 2971 0001, www.diningconcepts.com
The Mayfare group is also offering freshly-boxed Diwali sweets at both of its Indian restaurants, Gaylord and Gunpowder. The options are kaju barfi (a cashew nut sweet), coconut barfi, boondi laddoo or a mixed box of all its goodies. Prices range from $125 to $300.
Gaylord, 5/F, Prince Tower, 12A Peking Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong, 2376 1001, www.mayfare.com.hk/gaylord
Gunpowder, G/F, J Residence, 18 Ship Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, 2827 7777, www.mayfare.com.hk/gunpowder
Besides sweets, Diwali is also about eating well. If you want to eat out, try to book a place at any of the restaurants mentioned above as well as other favourites – New Punjab Club, Jashan, Chaiwala, Cardamon Street, Woodlands, 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 and Spice Box 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, we can always depend on The Candle Company and 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. Candles and home decor items also make an excellent gifting choice if you have been invited over to a friend’s home for Diwali.
Star Mart, K.K. Industrial Building, 5 Mok Cheong Road, Ma Tau Kok, Kowloon, Hong Kong, 2366 6534, WhatsApp: 9815 1392, www.starmart.com.hk
Spice Box Organics, 137 Caine Road, Shop 1, Golden Valley Mansion, Mid-Levels, Hong Kong, 2559 9887
Spice Box Organics, 39–45 Hau Wo Street, Kennedy Town, Hong Kong, 2191 0886, www.spiceboxorganics.com
Chungking Mansions, 36-44 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong
The Candle Company, G/F, 11 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, Hong Kong, 2545 0099, www.candles.hk
Now that we have checked off food, décor and gifting options, 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 and Pernia’s Pop-up Shop which offers designer wear and styling consultations. 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. Fine & Rhine is also a good option for fusion wear but at a more affordable price range. 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!).
Kanta Trading Company, 3/F, Shop No.T1-T2, Cathay 88 Cathay Lodge, 125 Wan Chai Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, 6970 5313, www.facebook.com/kantatradingcompany
Read more: Where To Get Prom Dresses In Hong Kong
Diwali is all about partying and this festival wouldn’t be complete without the mini-Bollywood spectacles happening across the city. Here are some of them.
Diwali Dazzlers At Sea
Want to take the family on a Diwali staycation with a difference? Opt for the two-night weekend getaway, “Diwali Dazzlers at Sea” cruise by Dream Cruises. You can choose double occupancy at $1,232 per person or quadruple occupancy at $841 per person (excluding port charges and gratuities). Before you ask, the cruise IS child-friendly. Kids above six months are allowed on board and the management provides a babysitting service so you can boogie the night away. Besides the Zumba classes, live cooking stations, extensive street food stalls and Indian fortune teller, you can also expect to be treated to live productions of song and dance shows.
When: Friday, 11 October and Friday, 18 October 2019. Departs Friday evening, returns Sunday morning.
Dream Cruises, 2317 77 11, www.dreamcruiseline.com
Diwali Extravaganza 2019
If retail therapy is more your thing, head to the Park Hotel on Saturday, 12 October for a shopping festival! Buy everything you need (or want) for Diwali and beyond, from clothes to home décor items. More details here.
When: Saturday, 12 October 2019; 11am to 7pm
Diwali Extravaganza 2019, Park Hotel, 61-65 Chatham Road South, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Lantau Diwali Exhibition 2019
Here’s another one for the shopaholics! Jewellery, Indian ethnic and Indo-Western wear, accessories and gift items will be on display here.
When: Sunday, 20 October 2019; 11am to 5:30pm
Lantau Diwali Exhibition 2019, A Tavola, Shops E & F, G/F Seaview Crescent Plaza, Tung Chung, Hong Kong
Besides these public and ticketed events, you’ll often find groups of friends organising parties at Indian restaurants. Put on your dancing shoes and get yourself an invite. With the ever-hospitable Indians, it’s always the more the merrier!
Editor’s note: This post was originally written by Simran on 29, October 2013 and updated by Anita Balagopalan on 4, October 2019.