After Tihar: City-wide hangover

Posted on November 10, 2010

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Think you can party hardy? Thought you were pretty wild during your college days? Then you ought to try bringing the party to Nepal during Tihar, because I’ll bet you this country can out-celebrate and out-party even *you* during their festival of lights.

dog with garland

Garlanded dog passed out after a long Tihar.

So Tihar — also known as Diwali in some circles — is five days long and celebrates the goddess Laxmi, the goddess of wealth. Depending on the day, you’ll see animals or people going about town wearing marigold garlands and “tika,” a big red dot on the forehead given as a blessing. Day 1 is the day of the crow, Day 2 is the day of the dog, Day 3, the most important day, is the day of the cow and the goddess Laxmi, Day 4 is the day of yourself, and Day 5 is the day of siblings.

marigold garlands

Piles of marigold garlands sold on the street.

Most houses and shops also get decorated with garlands of marigold, and oil lamps are lit in windows and doorways. Bigger shops hang strings of lights, so walking around Kathmandu feels a lot like walking around any lit-up American city at Christmas.

Tihar lights

Blurry, but you get the picture.

Now, here’s the fun part: For some reason, setting off bottle rockets and super loud fireworks are also part of the celebration. All day every day, explosions go off next door, down the street, or just around the corner. Several nights ago was the peak of Tihar, the night dedicated to worshiping Laxmi. There were explosions a plenty. Our walk home from dinner was harrowing, since we ran into many young men lighting explosives made out of glass bottles. One guy would hold the bottle at arm’s length while another guy lit a paper wick stuffed into it. BOOM!

During the peak of Tihar, the party for Laxmi raged all night. From our bedroom window, we could hear music blasting throughout the neighborhood and people singing and carousing. I awoke at 3:09 a.m. to hear a live concert down the street still going strong.

The next morning, I walked to the internet cafe because the internet at our house was down — get this — due to Tihar. As I walked, I noticed there were a lot of closed shops. A bakery was open, but the display case showed mostly empty shelves of goods. A man sort of stumbled down the street ahead of me, squinting as he went, his hat pulled low over his eyes. I kept walking and saw the sidewalk Tihar decorations all in disarray, and then, from a narrow alleyway of apartments, I heard the most enormous yawn emanate from a bedroom window. A-ha, I thought, I know what this is! This is an entire city suffering from a righteous hangover.

When I went to lunch and found out there were only three things on the menu because the chef was not in that day, my suspicions were confirmed.

Keep in mind this all comes just a few weeks after Dasain, the two-week long national holiday. So the next time you think you’re the life of the party, think again.