Celebrating Diwali!

Diwali this year falls on Thursday 19 October. To celebrate the festival of lights, we’re exploring the history of this Hindu festival, the tradition of sweetmeats and how sugar and celebration go together so perfectly – and why that’s perfectly okay.

Also, no mention of Diwali would be right without a sweetmeat recipe! We’ve included one of our favourites at the end of this article to help you celebrate, and of course, enjoy Diwali.

What is Diwali?

As a Hindu festival, Diwali is one of the biggest celebrations in the Indian culture. Diwali translates to ‘series of lights’ and during the festival, houses and shops are decorated with lots of lights and candles.

Diwali goes back to ancient India and most likely began as a harvest festival. There are various legends that are celebrated during Diwali, the most popular are the marriage of the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi to Lord Vishnu, Lakshmi’s birthday and the return of Lord Rama from exile after defeating the demon king Ravana. The lights in Diwali signify light over darkness and the Hindu belief that good will always triumph evil.

When is Diwali?

The date of the festival changes every year because it’s calculated by the position of the moon and the Hindu lunar calendar – this year it takes place on Thursday 19 October. Diwali celebrations start on the eve before the main day.

What happens during Diwali?

As this is the festival of lights, there are, of course, lots of lights, candles and fireworks. People also dress up in their best outfits, get together as a family and exchange gifts. But, what’s more exciting is the traditional sweetmeats that are made and given and received by friends, family and colleagues.

Sugar and celebrations

Almost since the beginning of time, humans have made sugary foods a huge part of celebrating. Sugar is a special part of celebrations such as birthdays, weddings, Christmas and Diwali.

It is not recommended to eat sugar in these larger quantities every day but it’s perfectly fine to enjoy it as part of a balanced diet and lifestyle. A balanced lifestyle is about eating a variety of foods, drinking clean water, taking part in physical activity and maintaining a healthy body weight. If you do have health concerns, take a look at our you, health and sugar page but for Diwali don’t hold yourself back from all the delicious sugary treats that are bound to be on offer. But like everything in life, consume in moderation.

Sweet traditions

With this in mind, let’s talk about Diwali’s sweet traditions. We know Diwali involves sweet things. But, what kind? Indian sweetmeats known as ‘mithai’.

Mithai can be enjoyed at any time of day as a snack, dessert or to satisfy your sweet tooth. Traditionally, Mithai has some of the following base ingredients: Chickpea flour, rice flour, semolina, beans, lentils, grains, squashes, carrots, condensed milk or yoghurt. Nuts and raisins can be added with fragrant spices like cardamom and cinnamon. And, for decoration they can be topped with more nuts, saffron, rose or silver or gold leaves. These vibrant ingredients certainly match the bright lights of the festival!

 

An Indian sweetmeat recipe

Burfee Recipe

Ingredients

  • 500g full cream milk powder
  • 1 x 155g tin cream
  • 1 x 385g tin condensed milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup fresh milk
  • ½ cup butter ghee
  • ¼ teaspoon elachi (cardamom) powder
  • Colour sliced almonds

Method

  1. Mix milk powder and cream together. Keep aside for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes press mixture through a sieve or mix into a fine powder using a food processor.
  2. Add sugar and fresh milk to a pot and boil for 10 minutes.
  3. Add ghee and elachi powder to the sugar and milk mixture and boil for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the milk powder and cream mixture to the pot and mix well.
  5. Add in the condensed milk and stir over very low heat for 4-5 minutes. The mixture should not stick to the pot.
  6. Pour mixture into a glass rectangular baking dish, lined with cling film and decorate with coloured almonds.
  7. Allow to set overnight before cutting into squares.

Enjoy!