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Festival of Lights: NHP Gathers for First Diwali Celebration Hosted by ICC and SSA

By Disha Chakraborty

Diwali is an event celebrated primarily in India by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains. The origin story behind the holiday varies within different regions although the theme of good surpassing evil is present throughout India. This year the New Hyde Park Memorial’s International Culture Club (ICC) along with Sikh Student Association (SSA) hosted a Diwali party. The event took place on November 9th, marking the first Diwali celebration held at the school.

“A primary focus of the club has been dedicating each month to a certain culture while also celebrating important cultural holidays that pass,” ICC Co-President Aparna Shibu said. “As our club officially started to plan events, we believed there wouldn’t be a better way to start than with Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights. Also, as it has been a long time since NHP has had a big cultural event, ICC decided to host Diwali with SSA, collaborating to plan out not only an accurate cultural representation of the holiday, but also encouraging all the students at NHP to attend the event by showcasing challenges and raffle prizes. While we initially capped the ticket sale to 100, we ended up having over 140 students attend the Diwali event. I’m beyond proud of how the event turned out and can’t wait to celebrate the diversity at NHP through many more events ICC has planned out for the year!”

Source by Linda Cheung

ICC and SSA officers gather for a picture in celebration of NHP's first Diwali event.

The celebration began with singing and dancing performed by the students. Junior Bani Kaur, the co-president of SSA, was one of the dancers who meticulously prepared and rehearsed the routine and its aesthetics.

“We spent a lot of practice time developing steps for our performance that we could all do well in,” Kaur said. “Additionally, to make it appear more aesthetically pleasant and put together while we danced, we all wore similar dhoti salwar kameez outfits. Although the other performers and I were at first anxious to perform, we are very glad that we did. It helped us showcase our talents and show the beautiful traditional dances from Punjab and India such as Giddha, Bhangra, Bharatanatyam, and Kathak.”

Mehndi is a form of body art that is popular in South Asia. The art is done using henna, a paste made of leaves, and is often done on the hands. Mehndi designs typically consist of flowers and other flora. Diyas are clay lamps in which candles are lit to light up homes on Diwali. These lamps are often painted with intricate designs similar to Mehndi.

“We decided to have stations for Mehndi run by student artists and a Diya painting station where students got to paint their own diya and bring home to spread the light of Diwali,” Shibu said. “By ending the night with an open dance floor and lighting the diyas, every student would leave the event truly having had fun with their friends while also embracing a cultural holiday.”

“Mehndi has been a big part of my culture for a very long time,” sophomore Mannat Sandhu said. “I grew up with my mother doing my mehndi for special events and holidays throughout the year. Her amazing skills inspired me to do mehndi myself. Recently the president of ICC saw that I had done my own mehndi and asked me if I could participate in the Diwali festival by doing mehndi on others. This made me very happy as I was able to spread the joy and beauty of my culture.”

Students also had the option of purchasing raffle tickets to participate in a pani puri eating contest. Pani Puri, also known as Golgappa or Phuchka, is a popular Indian street food. The composition of pani puris typically consists of a hollow, deep-fried wheat shell filled with potatoes, tamarind or mint water. From the raffle, five students were picked to compete to see who could eat the pani puri the fastest. The winner was Samay Patel who won a $25 Amazon gift card.

“It was a thrilling experience from when my raffle got picked for the contest to when I realized I was the first to finish,” sophomore Samay Patel said. “The whole event was amazing but this was definitely a highlight.”

Many students admired the event’s ability to celebrate Diwali across New Hyde Park’s diverse student body.

“Seeing people of all different ethnicities join together as one for this occasion was great and amazing to experience,” Kaur said.

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