What is Diwali? Celebration kicks off for Hindu holiday at Chicago's city hall

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Diwali is the biggest and most important holiday of the year for Hindus around the world.

It is the five-day Festival of Lights celebrated by millions. The holiday symbolizes new beginnings and the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness. A celebration at Chicago's City Hall kicked off Thursday. It's the first time Diwali has been celebrated there.

The consul general of India was the guest of honor. These celebrations are part of a growing awareness of the holiday.

Roopla Khanna traveled from her suburban Chicago home to New Delhi, India to celebrate with family.

"People wear their best clothing that they dress up nicely and celebrate too," Khanna said. "It's kind of just how people dress up for thanksgiving dinner or Christmas dinner."
Deepti Suri said it how and when a person celebrates depends on what region their family traces its roots on.

"I am North Indian," Suri said. "My husband is South Indian so we do most of our celebrations in the evening, but my husband, they do in the early morning."

U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi is cosponsoring legislation to make Diwali a federal holiday.

"There's a very large and growing number of people who observe and visit the temple," Krishnamoorthi said. "They have family and friends and have a party."

Suri has been hosting Diwali parties for friends and yogis at her Hinsdale yoga studio. She said it's important to share her culture. Siri said she supports making Diwali a federal holiday.

"When you celebrate these cultural holidays together, I think it would bring harmony and that's what is needed in these days," Suri said. "We need more festivals, more cultural activities."

Krishnamoorthi said that's his goal with the legislation. He wants to encourage Americans to learn more about each other.

"When you have those bonds of humanity that kind of ties us to each other," Krishnamoorthi said. "We're just likely to learn to empathize more and discriminate less."
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