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Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School students, Edward Walsh, 12, of Oak Lawn; and Lola Cruz, 12, of Oak Lawn, were proud to celebrated Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, on Thursday, November 4 at the school, 5345 99th St., Oak Lawn. (Supplied photos)

Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School students, Edward Walsh, 12, of Oak Lawn; and Lola Cruz, 12, of Oak Lawn, were proud to celebrated Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, on Thursday, November 4 at the school, 5345 99th St., Oak Lawn. (Supplied photos)

Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School celebrates Diwali Festival of Lights

By Kelly White

Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School takes pride in its diversified education.

Students within the school, 5345 99th St, Oak Lawn, celebrated Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, on November 4.

“The thing I loved most about this lesson was learning about a different culture and learning about how amazing this festival is,” Lola Cruz, 12, of Oak Lawn, said.

Diwali is India’s biggest and most important holiday of the year. The festival gets its name from the row (avali) of clay lamps (deepa) that Indians light outside their homes to symbolize the inner light that protects from spiritual darkness.

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Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School, 5345 99th St., Oak Lawn celebrated Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, on November 4.

Over the centuries, Diwali has become a national festival that’s also enjoyed by non-Hindu communities, and educators at Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School (OLHMS) felt it was important to introduce the holiday to all backgrounds.

“At OLHMS, we love to celebrate diversity, which includes celebrating holidays from different cultures,” Heather McCarthy, Media Specialist at OLHMS, said. “In October, we set up a community ofrenda to celebrate Dia de Muertos. In November, we will celebrate Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, and then in December, we will celebrate a variety of holidays including Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Christmas to name a few. Students who celebrate these holidays love to share about their culture, and the other students enjoy learning about other cultures.”

During the school-wide celebration, students and staff members read out loud about Diwali. This was followed by presentations from students who celebrate Diwali.

“The more students learn about other cultures, traditions, and celebrations, the more accepting and inclusive they will become towards each other,” McCarthy said. “Some people fear what they don’t know. The more they know, the more inclusive our school community can be.”

Diwali is also known as Divali or Deepawali and is a major festival celebrated over five days in many parts of India by people of different faiths including many Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Muslims and some Buddhists.

While Diwali is a religious festival, it has also become a secular national holiday celebrated widely across India, much like Christmas has become a holiday celebrated by Christians and non-Christians alike in the United States., according to History.com.

After learning about the holiday and its cultural significance, students learned how to make paper lanterns and hung them in the hallway to create a Festival of Lights atmosphere.

Sixth and seventh grade students in Global Studies class were able to participate in the lantern making lesson. In order to do so, they watched a few different videos on how to make the lanterns and followed the guide of their classmates who celebrate Diwali.

The lanterns were hung throughout the school.

There were also a variety of other activities that took place out the day, including: creating rangoli patterns, tissue paper ball designs, and paper fireworks displays.

“Any time students have an opportunity to learn from their peers or learn about other cultures, traditions, and celebrations we embrace that opportunity,” McCarthy said. “Our school has not celebrated Diwali in the past, but as we move towards meeting our goals on equity, diversity, and inclusion, we will continue to celebrate more cultures, traditions, customs, and holidays.”

Students enjoyed learning about the tradition, as well.

“I loved making the lanterns and learning about Diwali,” Edward Walsh, 12, of Oak Lawn, said. “It seems like a fun, colorful, and awesome celebration that I would love to celebrate.”

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