Two October Celebrations: Fiji Day and Diwali
My October post presented me with a quandary - should I look back to Fiji Day on 10th October or forward to Diwali on 25th October? Although these dates are for the official one-day public holidays, both celebrations actually extend over a week. People have just a short break for recovery between the two festivals.
When Fiji celebrated 50 years as a nation two years ago, I wrote here about the two events this holiday commemorates, so I'll keep this story short.
On 10th October 1874, Fiji's chiefs led by Ratu Cakobau ceded sovereignty to Queen Victoria in return for her protection. On the same date in 1970, her great great granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth, gave up that control, ceding government to Fiji's inhabitants under a modern democratic constitution. Here's a link to the wonderful British Movietone newsreel recording the events. The lead-up to self-government was without struggle or bloodshed, and to this day both Cession and Independence are celebrated annually in Fiji Week. Even here in Sydney the Fijian community takes part in Fiji Week with enthusiastic picnics, church services, concerts and, it goes without saying, rugby matches.
I won't repeat the details of my Diwali post, you can check it out if you like. I knew nothing of this festival before I came to live in Fiji. Diwali honours Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of prosperity, beauty and knowledge.
In Suva, Hindus spruce up their houses, go overboard with garish lights and temple attendance soars. They visit friends and neighbours of all religions, bearing gifts of colourful spicy sweets, home-made if possible. Everyone gets a new outfit. Fireworks explode night and day, drums beat and young men compete to create the most ear-splitting racket for days on end. The day before the public holiday, town-dwelling Hindus and Sikhs host a slap-up morning or afternoon tea at their workplaces.
At the University of the South Pacific, where I worked, the day began with lots of laughs as all non-Indians were presented with Indian clothes. My colleagues gleefully dressed us and we wore these clothes the whole day. Our staff table groaned beneath wonderfully spiced sweets, and needless to say, the morning tea was an extended one. My mouth's watering as I type, just remembering! Sugar is believed to make children hyperactive, but it seemed to have the opposite effect on us adults at Diwali. Or maybe it was those spices? One year we managed to troop outside for this photo - well, the women did. Only one brave man joined us. I'm standing next to him, 4th from the left.
Last year, I posted a simple recipe for easy Suji Ladoo (semolina balls), a popular Diwali sweet. I've just spent hours trawling the internet for another easy Diwali recipe to try myself and share with you, but the ones that appealed all looked too fiendishly difficult for me. I recommend you try out Suji Ladoo for Diwali - that's what I'm planning to do!