Amongst other workplace issues facing people working and managing in complex, international organizations, Global Integration trains and consults on cross cultural awareness in the workplace. This week: Diwali.
Diwali (also called Devali or Deepavali) – the ‘festival of lights’ – falls later this week. It’s an important festival for Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs, and is a national holiday in many countries. Diwali is celebrated differently by different people, albeit with some common themes.
It’s a fantastic festival of light, and small lanterns are filled with oil to signify the triumph of good over evil and the finding of ‘inner light’ – new clothes are donned and sweets shared. The five day festival embraces financial wellbeing, thanksgiving, the triumph of good over evil, benevolence, remembrance and, importantly, family. In rural communities it is often associated with the harvest as well.
Traditions vary from region to region, but it’s safe to say that it’s culturally, religiously and personally significant for participants, with colourful outer manifestations – bathing, anointing, fireworks, lamps, food, dance, gifts – being matched, for many, with deep spiritual meaning: the tying off of old ends and new beginnings. Many avoid meat and alcohol over the period.
For people working with anyone celebrating Diwali, it’s important to realise that this is a major festival – almost like four or five significant festivals rolled into one. And as such preparations start early, and excitement builds.
Our advice to anyone working with people who celebrate Diwali?
Ask your colleagues how they’ll be celebrating. It’s an exciting time, culturally important, and you will almost certainly learn something important about the values of the person you work with, as well as deepening your working relationship.
Respect the festival. It only happens once a year, and celebrants will often take time away from work to participate. Don’t try and load deadlines or extra work around Diwali – and enjoy the celebration. It may not have the same spiritual meaning for other religions, but the colour, joy and even smells of Diwali are there for all to enjoy.