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New York City's World Trade Center lights up for its first Diwali celebration

Diwali is the celebration of light over darkness, good over evil, and more than 1 billion Hindus worldwide are observing it Thursday by lighting candles, setting off fireworks and exchanging gifts with friends and family.

While most people may refer to the holiday as Diwali, it's traditionally called Deepavali and that is how it's known in most parts of India.

This year for the first time, the World Trade Center has been lit with a digital mural in celebration of the holiday, organized by the South Asian Engagement Foundation, along with a livestreamed fireworks show on the Hudson River.

Also known as the festival of lights, Diwali is part of a five-day celebration that honors Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.

Celebrants light lamps, set off fireworks and gather with friends and family to exchange gifts and enjoy holiday meals together, honoring community and a new year.

But in November 2020, Diwali celebrations looked different in the U.S.

It had only been months since March 2020. A lot was still unknown about the future of the pandemic and vaccines weren't readily available to the public.

It was a disappointing time for some. Potlucks that would usually be around 20 people turned into only a handful of people who had to isolate themselves before attending. Large community gatherings with traditional Indian dances, sweet treats and fashion shows to celebrate had to come to a halt.

Fireworks celebrating Diwali light up over the Hudson River in New York City.
/ South Asian Engagement Foundation
South Asian Engagement Foundation
Fireworks celebrating Diwali light up over the Hudson River in New York City.

This year, in the spirit of light over darkness, people can gather around the World Trade Center to see the digital mural through Thursday.

"As our country and the world continues to battle the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual Diwali celebration of unity, peace and harmony provides the perfect tone for working together and healing during these tough times," Steven Fulop, mayor of Jersey City said.

Tien Le is an intern on NPR's News Desk.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tien Le