What I Love About Holiday Celebrations Around the World

rterior-studio_west-hollywood-and-la_moody-inspired-interiors_what-i-love-about-holiday-celebrations-around-the-world_lit-clay-lamps-for-diwali-with-fireworks-in-backgroundGrowing up in an Indian household (albeit in Kuwait, living the expat life), my mother made sure we celebrated the traditional Hindi festivals every single year. She went ALL out and prepared for every last detail months (sometimes years) ahead of time.

Because we lived in a middle-eastern country, we didn’t have access to Hindu Temples. No problem for my mother, however… she converted a room of our home and built her own. No joke!

Since Indian vendors weren’t accessible where we lived (back in the late 80s and early 90s), we couldn’t buy traditional Indian clothes any time of the year. Again, no sweat for my mother. She would plan a whole year’s worth of clothing for herself, my father, my sister, and me… and make all of those purchases during our summer vacations to India. Needless to say, we would come back with WAY more luggage than we left with. (Shopping spree, anyone?!)


Seeing as we were far away from places where we could purchase customary seasonal decor and accessories, my mother had to think about those items nearly a year in advance as well. She didn’t seem phased by all of the forethought, though… she simply planned and coordinated, and we never went without any significant detail for our holiday celebrations. (Talk about an amazing woman, right?)

The tradition and culture that surrounded my childhood impacted me deeply and shaped me into the person that I am today. Personally, it instilled in me a reverence for the past and a desire to keep tradition alive, no matter where I might find myself. Professionally, it taught me to admire and appreciate colors, textures, moods, and design from around the world.

Today, I want to share a bit of that culture with you: an overview of the holiday festivals that have inspired me (and our clients’ colorful interiors!), and a bit of the cultural beauty and history that I’ve carried throughout my life.

And believe me, there’s no shortage of vibrant color where we’re going!

Holiday #1: Ganesh Chaturthi

WHERE IT IS CELEBRATED…

As one of the most important festivals in India, this holiday is celebrated nationwide,although the largest festivities occur in Mumbai. However, everyone does a smaller version of it in their own homes, serving as somewhat of a “kick-off” to the entire festival season.

WHAT IT IS…

This 10-day affair (happening sometime in August or September, based on the calendar) is full of color, handcrafted Ganesh idols, singing, dancing, and theater that celebrates the birthday of Lord Ganesh, the elephant-headed God. The religious festival ends with an immersion ceremony where an idol is submerged into a body of water.

WHY IT INSPIRES ME…

The festival is full of preparation and prayers to Lord Ganesh to both visit us and remove our obstacles, which was very grounding and humbling.

Although many are told to ask for blessings in these prayers, my father would always tell us not to ask when we prayed, but to request guidance through navigating obstacles…and ask that Lord Ganesh would hold our hands through the trials, just like a parent would do for a child. These early memories with profound life lessons have stuck with me throughout life. I truly believe it is because of this that I’ve never shied away from challenges — yes, even design challenges!

Holiday #2: Navratri

WHERE IT IS CELEBRATED…

While this festival is celebrated all over India, and even abroad, the celebrations are most vibrant in Gujarat, Maharashtra, and the surrounding metropolitan areas.

WHAT IT IS…

“Nav” means nine and “ratri” means nights, i.e. Nav-ratri, or nine-nights (and days) of celebrating the Goddess Amba (meaning Power) and her victory over the demons in nine different forms. This festival lands sometime in September or October, based on the calendar. People dress in beautiful, colorful, traditional clothing. The atmosphere is youthful and lively. And fasting is encouraged to give digestive systems a rest in order to boost immunity for the coming season.

WHY IT INSPIRES ME…

This is BY FAR my FAVORITE holiday. For 9 days, we get dressed up in our best Indian clothing, wear our elaborate jewelry, do our hair and makeup, and dance the night away in a synchronized circle dance with universal steps.

I remember back to my school-age years when I couldn’t wait to dress up from head to toe and dance into the wee hours of the morning. Yes, even on school nights…as long as I promised not to fuss the next morning and to keep my grades up. And the best part?! My best friend did the same thing, so we would strategize our steps and coordinate our outfits during the lunch period so that we would be completely in sync that evening…it was all soooo innocent and fun!

Everything about this festival still lights me up…the music, colors, community, and dance. It reminds me how vibrant and invigorating life can be. OBSESSED!!!

Holiday #3: Dussehra

WHERE IT IS CELEBRATED…

Although celebrated worldwide, the largest crowds gather in India for the burning of the effigies, which is a can’t-miss sight to see if you’re ever in the area. Seriously!

WHAT IT IS…

This festival (again, falling in September or October, based on the calendar), which showcases the triumph of good over evil, celebrates the death of the demon king Ravan at the hands of Lord Rama. While observed in different forms countrywide, reenactments of scenes from Ramayana are performed everywhere for 10 days. It culminates with the burning of huge effigies, where massive crowds gather to witness the spectacle.

WHY IT INSPIRES ME…

This festival is all about reflection and praying for the understanding of the power in being good. The foundation of the celebration – celebrating good over evil – is so grounding, and helps everyone see and appreciate the deeper meaning in life. Even in the most difficult periods of my life, I’ve held onto the truth that goodness and love always triumph.

Holiday #4: Diwali

WHERE IT IS CELEBRATED…

As the most popular Indian festival, Diwali is celebrated worldwide. I mean, it was even mentioned on The Office, after all!

WHAT IT IS…

The most prominent and well-known of the Hindu festivals, Diwali is celebrated in October or November, based on the calendar, with a lot of pomp and ceremony. It marks the return of Lord Rama, along with his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana, after a long exile of 14 years. Throughout the 1-night festival of lights, houses are decorated, people wear brand new clothes, and everyone feasts and shares sweets with family and friends.

WHY IT INSPIRES ME…

We celebrate with candles lit EVERYWHERE in the household, beautiful clay lamps, delicious food, and tons of fireworks. It is a celebration of return and homecoming, so we keep our doors open all day and night (okay, well not through the night, for safety reasons, but we “imply” the door is open by keeping a candle burning in a prominent window all night long).

This emphasis on homecoming reminds me of my roots and every year helps me recenter myself on where I came from and how the customs and culture of my youth and my ancestors have played a role in making me who I am today. It’s a beautiful reminder celebrated in an equally gorgeous display of light and color.

My Childhood Traditions

Now that you’ve heard a bit about Indian festivities, you know they are all about vibrant colors, amazing food, and communal celebration.

But before those aspects could be enjoyed, the house would need to be cleaned and prepared. I’m not talking about a light dusting and vacuuming the rugs, either. I mean more than the deepest spring cleaning you’ve ever done. We would repaint the house, get new window treatments, and even change out the carpets every 2 years. It was a brand new space each time we finished this process!

Why, you might ask? Well, as with every other component of our festivals, this process has significance. It symbolizes the cleaning out of stagnant energy in the home so that when you “open your doors” during the festivals, you are offering the Gods and Goddesses your sincerest respect and thanks as they are welcomed into your home.

Reinventing the space meant rejuvenating our lives… and as a designer, I LOVE the symbolism in that. Don’t you?!

How Your Happiest Memories Can Impact the Interior Design of Your Home

When I moved from Kuwait to the U.S. to further my education, I severely missed the Hindu holiday season. I yearned for the food, celebrations, festivities, and friends and family that I had celebrated with my whole life.

But, as I started to build my life here and embrace the American culture, I realized that Christmas over here is celebrated with the same level of excitement and preparation (minus the fireworks). Plus, you know I can always add an extra dose of color and pizzazz to my own personal celebrations here!!!

Recounting these joyful memories made with my family around me, I understand why I am so heavily influenced by color, opulence, texture, and bold designs. In the design of my own home…there’s color and life and laughter everywhere!

BUT — your home is personal. It’s different for everyone! So…

What are your stories?

How do you want your home to feel? What memories inspire those same feelings?

What memories make you feel warm and cozy, excited or uplifted, or totally sexy and confident?

If you’re ready for a home that tells your story and sets your soul on fire, there’s not a moment to waste! Let’s chat and make some magic together.

With love to you and yours,

rydhima brar principal rterior studio west hollywood LA bold eclectic interior design firm