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Diwali: Festival of Lights

Diwali: Festival of Lights

After my shift at Benjamin Franklin House, I headed over to Trafalgar Square for the Diwali Festival.  Diwali is an ancient Hindu festival of lights signifying the spiritual victory of light over darkness.  Holiday traditions include cleaning and decorating homes and offices, lighting lamps and candles, family prayers, fireworks, feasting (with lots of sweets), and exchanging gifts with family and friends.

Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists celebrate Diwali too.  It’s an official holiday in many countries besides India, including Nepal, Sri Lanka, Guyana, Malaysia, Singapore, Fiji, and Pakistan.  Like Christmas in Western countries, Diwali is an important part of the retail year in countries where it’s celebrated.

It was a beautiful afternoon and there was a huge crowd in Trafalgar Square by the time I got there.  I worked my around the whole square to see all the sights of the festival.  There was a big stage with non-stop dance and music, food stalls, henna tattoos, and Bollywood-style dance classes.  Colorfully dressed characters wandered through the crowds.

After taking in all the excitement of the festival, I decided to explore more of the neighborhood.  I wandered around for a bit, then ended up crossing Waterloo Bridge just as the sun was starting to set.  The view was simply stunning.  Fairy lights twinkled along the embankment, and Big Ben and the London Eye were bathed in deep pink shadows.  Later I learned that the view from Waterloo Bridge is quite famous, but I didn’t know it at the time.  It was magical to stumble on it quite by chance, and at such a perfect time of day.  The pictures I took didn’t quite capture the magic of the moment, but I’ll always remember how beautiful it was.

I caught the Tube at Waterloo Station, which is at the south end of the bridge.  It may sound touristy, but I was ready for a little home-style comfort food after a month in London, so I stopped at the Pizza Hut near Canada Water station on my way home.  There are British pizza chains, including the ubiquitous Pizza Express, but the toppings and combinations tend to be much more adventurous than in America.  I was looking for something a bit more basic.  I ended up with a cheese and sausage pizza that tasted almost like the ones back home.  That should satisfy my craving for “American food” for at least another month!

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