The first time I witnessed a Fourth of July fireworks display, I was completely blown away by the grand scale of the event, the crowds, the parade, the tempo and celebrations around me. It was truly an exhilarating experience as I sat atop a hill overlooking a park, with hundreds of others and watched the spectacular display of fireworks against the backdrop of the beautiful summer skies of North Carolina.
As memorable as this experience was, and as much as I enjoy watching the July 4th fireworks year after year, it doesn’t really compare to the Diwali fireworks I enjoyed as a child in my very own backyard – the fond memories of which I carry to this day. I may be far away from my family and having fireworks in my porch or backyard may be out of the question here in the US, but every year, as Diwali approaches, my thoughts wander down memory lane.
In India, the approach of Deepavali, the grandest festival of the year, is marked by the sights and sounds of fire crackers and sparklers, that are seen and heard days ahead of the actual festival. Although I like the idea of an entire town or neighborhood gathering in a park to view communal fireworks, as is the practice in July 4th celebrations in the US, it took a little getting used to initially. You see, Diwali is an occasion when children and adults alike participate actively in the bursting and display of fire crackers. ‘Rockets’, ‘Pencil crackers’, ‘Floor Chakra’, ‘Fountain Crackers’ are some of the varieties of fire crackers that we enjoyed as kids. Each had its unique feature and appeal.
Children laid out the fire crackers to dry in the sun days before Diwali. We compared each other’s collections and secretly eye another’s more exotic variety. The actual bursting of crackers began a few days ahead. Unable to contain our excitement, we would begin bursting our fire crackers one after another. As Diwali neared, box after box of fire cracker and sparkler was opened. When Deepavali finally arrived, it was a grand finale to the weeks of celebrations. Friends and family came together at someone’s terrace or courtyard to partake in the joyous event. We shared our fire crackers and enjoyed each other’s displays. Healthy competition ensued between neighboring streets or communities as to which display was grander or lasted longer. Children, dressed in their finest, holding sparklers in their little hands were truly a sight to behold. From toddler to octogenarian , there was a fire cracker to suit everybody’s taste and style – from the simple, hand-held sparklers to the loudest of ‘bombs’ to the most complex, nested rockets.
There’s something about that kind of chaotic and casual, friendly fireworks display that is missing in the extremely well-orchestrated displays we are used to today. Although viewing a sophisticated fireworks extravaganza in the skies above is an enthralling experience, it somehow is not the same as participating first-hand in the bursting of fire crackers with family and friends in one’s own backyard.
Which is why I will certainly be going to the Diwali fireworks display in my city. The Hindu Temple of Atlanta organizes a fireworks display in which children and adults can actually participate. And that’s an event I won’t be missing. I want my three year old daughter to experience, at least in some form, the thrill of Deepavali fire crackers first hand. If you’re looking for a similar experience, be sure to join the Diwali celebrations in your city. Just warn your kids though that it’s going to be a different kind of fireworks display! Maybe not as sophisticated as July 4th, but probably a lot more action than they’re used to!
To give them a hint as to what they might expect to see, send them this free Diwali Ecard which captures beautifully the essence of Diwali fireworks.
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