Diwali, the Festival of Lights, is historically a celebration of the Hindu New Year, and in the age- old origin story of Diwali, it marks Prince Rama’s return to Ayodhya. The people of Ayodhya, seeing that it was a dark night, lit candles and lanterns throughout the city so that their beloved Prince Rama would find his way safely home after fourteen years of exile. In the grim atmosphere of COVID- 19 Croydon, wherein families cannot meet inside or outside, the prospect of a happy Diwali seemed unlikely to all. But in the early afternoon of Saturday the fourteenth of November, Thornton Heath was flooded with socially distanced lines trailing out of shops selling boxes of Indian sweets, traditional foodstuffs and incense. The community had made a silent decision to come together as much as they could, and celebrate this famous festival from within their homes.

Amar, a resident of Croydon, said, “I think it’s so important to everyone that they celebrate Diwali this year, because not only have we all been missing being in contact with one another daily, Diwali actually marks the start of a New Year. I think the community wants a fresh start, and they want to make today as joyful as they can.”

Indeed, as the day got later, fireworks could be heard all over the area, and local shopkeeper Brittany said, “It’s lovely to see people coming together like this, even in spirit. It’s just been a really nice atmosphere in the shop today, and it’s been one of the busiest afternoons in a while.”

Croydon seemed buoyed by the hectic, friendly chaos of pre- Diwali shopping and planning, and several people mentioned family Skype calls, Zoom meetings, or FaceTimes to bring them together on this special occasion. As evening approached, candles and lamps lit up homes throughout Croydon in a truly spectacular show of cultural solidarity, made even more uplifting by the difficult circumstances everyone in the community did not let bring them down.