Diwali: CELEBRATING THE FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS IN THE SHADOWS OF A PANDEMIC

With festivities just around the corner, it’s becoming increasingly evident that the ‘holiday’ season we once knew will look and feel quite different this year.

Bubbled households, places of worship delivering services via Zoom, spilling mulled wine on the living room carpet rather than the tiled floor of your local pub… are all notable changes that serve as a harsh reminder of the impact COVID has had on our lives, and effect how we can celebrate the uniquely human rituals of the festive season.

So, as the Winter-y days turn ever-darker, and as our news is filled with rising R rates, dictatorships continuing to fail their people, and former-Presidents denying democracy…it is easy to feel lost in this seemingly perpetual ‘darkness’.

However, now is the time to look for ways to positively disrupt the darkness, and find a way to enjoy the traditions we love — but in a way that’s fit for the times.

Despite all we have endured over the last 9 months, we have seen the power in collectivism and the importance of communities coming together to overcome the hardships.

SEEKING OUT LIGHT WITHIN THE DARKNESS

For me, Diwali is the ultimate embodiment of this positive disruption — or light defeating the darkness.

Over the weekend, the Indian Festival of Lights, Diwali was enjoyed by millions around the world — celebrated as a triumph of good over evil.

It is a festival comprised of many traditions; including cleaning the house (a skill we’ve all become painfully good at over recent months), praying with family, exchanging gifts with neighbours and lighting up one’s entire home with candles, ‘diyas’ or small clay lanterns.

Many of us are wishing away the remainder of 2020, optimistically planning what we hope to do, see and achieve in 2021. Diwali’s practices signify a fresh start, new favourable beginnings, with the intention being to infuse the coming year with light and positivity. Diwali is an ancient celebration that also feels like the perfect respite and reset for current times.

CONNECTING IN TIMES OF FUNDAMENTAL DISCONNECT

As an Indian living in London, Diwali is when I most miss the sights, sounds and smells of home.

Last year I brought the light into the office, with delicate coloured lanterns and a table laden with Indian food and sweet treats. As the images below show, for me, it was a wonderful reminder of how diverse the Brand Genetics team is — how open and welcoming they are of different cultures and how they celebrate different heritages with the same of curiosity and delight as they do their own.

Fast forward to 2020, celebrating Diwali means finding new ways to meld a millennium of tradition with 21st century and COVID-friendly modes of communication and connection.

This year, those moments of connection didn’t come from passing a tray of sugar-soaked candies to relatives, sharing special moments with loved ones, collective prayers or sharing gifts and food with strangers.

While isolated in our homes, we’ve been forced to strip our festivals back to basics, removing the frills, fancies and fireworks to focus instead on what is truly important — connecting with people.

Whether it’s Christmas, Chanukah, Diwali or Eid, celebrating our traditional Winter festivals means recognising, appreciating and celebrating the significance of human connection.

In psychology, we refer to this need for human connection as ‘Relatedness’ and crucially, it is a core need that must be fulfilled for humans to truly feel happiness.

This year, human connection will come as friends exchange e-cards, light lanterns in public spaces, as parents teach family recipes to children via Facetime, and people prepare to hold their annual Diwali dinners over Zoom for the first time.

We’ve also seen examples of large virtual celebrations, from the Chancellor Rishi Sunak lighting up 11 Downing Street, Birmingham’s popular Festival of Light event being streamed online for free, and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal live streaming prayers straight from the famous Akshardham Temple in New Delhi.

HX Learnings

At Brand Genetics, we believe thinking ‘human-first’ is vital and so is ensuring products and brands are designed with human happiness at their core.

Diwali teaches the power of new beginnings, asserting that good will overcome evil and light will prevail against darkness. It reminds us to shine light in the darkness and focuses on both positivity and the power of human beings, reinforcing how crucial ‘relatedness’ and connection is for all of us.

We know what is good for people, is good for business. Diwali is also considered to be a highly prosperous occasion for businesses — an auspicious time to launch new business plans, products and partnerships (and hopefully vaccines).

We know people need to feel connected to be happy. The festive season signals a traditional period of connection, but this year we see families fractured, loved ones separated and tradition must give way to the necessities of a world under COVID.

To fill this void, there is a real need for brands and businesses to consider relatedness now and more than ever. How can your business ‘shine a light in the darkness’ and help consumers stay connected?

Shivani Nirula is a consultant at Brand Genetics, an agency specialising in human-centred insight and innovation. Founder of Eska, an award-winning Yoga & Wellness clothing brand based in India, Shivani is a proven entrepreneur and innovator, with experience in design, branding and strategy.

Human-Centered Insight, Innovation and Trends from Brand Genetics www.brandgenetics.com

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