Hindus across the world are celebrating Diwali this week. It’s a huge holiday marked in India by lavish spending, large family reunions, lots of bright lights, and tons of fireworks. Imagine if elements of Christmas, Chanukah, New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July were rolled into one holiday and you’ll get the idea. While the specific meaning of the holiday varies regionally, Hindus worldwide light earthen lamps to celebrate the triumph of light over spiritual darkness. It’s also a time to celebrate personal wealth. Businesses hold lengthy sales before the holiday, and this year companies like online retailer Snapdeal were processing as many as 300 online orders per second. Diwali is a centuries old celebration with different meanings and even different spellings in different parts of the country.
Diwali is also a big time for fireworks, so much so that Indians spend millions of dollars on them. At least one NGO is campaigning to eliminate them on the grounds that they’re unsafe for factory workers and terrible for air pollution. The air in many Indian cities is already considered unsafe, and the fireworks have been known to temporarily spike carbon monoxide levels to dangerous highs.
Not all Indians are Hindus, of course, and not all Hindus are Indian. (Hi, Julia Roberts!) But the holiday is primarily celebrated in communities with large Indian populations. In the United States, Indians are now the second-largest immigrant group, and communities center in large cities like New York, Chicago, and San Jose, California. Here are ten other facts to introduce you to this big celebration.