1. It's a BIG deal
Diwali is more than just a religious celebration–it's a holiday on a massive scale.
"Diwali is the most important Hindu holy day of the year," said Varun Soni, Dean of Religious Life. "I would say it's become more than just Hindu holy day, it's become a culturally important day in India for many different religious groups."
People who celebrate other religions, like Sikhs and Jains, also celebrate Diwali, according to Soni. Though many people celebrate for different reasons, they all come together.
"It is seen as a time for families to get together." Eesen Sivapalan, President of USC's Hindu Student Organization, said. "My grandparents will come over to our house, even our relatives from Canada will come over … It's almost like the Thanksgiving or Christmas of the United States. "
"It's also in some ways become a big party too. There are a lot of fireworks," said Soni. "It's sort of become a little bit like the fourth of July in India even though it's not celebrating a national event. It takes on many different forms."
2. Diwali comes from the convergence of two narratives.
In northern India, many believe Diwali came from the sanskrit The Ramayan. This epic is about a man named Rama, who is in exile. During this time he defeats the demon Ravana, and many celebrate his return back to his hometown Ayodhya, by lighting lamps around the city.
"People are celebrating his return, and lighting lamps as they welcome him back to the city," Soni said.
"In that narrative, Diwali really represents the victory of good over evil, of doing righteous battle in one's life," said Soni. "That is really a north Indian narrative."
The second narrative is a more general story of prosperity.
"It is an opportunity to worship the goddess Lakshmi, she is the goddess of prosperity," said Soni. "Between these two narratives, Diwali for most people means that this is a time that we reflect how we do goodness in the world, and by doing that goodness, bring prosperity to ourselves."
3. The celebrations can last up to five days.
How long celebrations last can depend on who is celebrating.
"On a Hindu calendar, those days are different every year. Like much of Hindu life and tradition, so much is regionally dependent," said Soni. "So what happens in the north/east/west, might not be happening in the south."
Each day has its own celebrations, but the first few generally lead up to a grand finale.
"Much of the buildup to this day involves prayer and gratitude and the lighting of lamps. Hindus will light lamps every day for this period," said Soni. "It's sort of like other holy day traditions that span multiple days like Passover. There may be different things you do every day, [but] the aspiration, the narrative behind it doesn't change."
4. The Classic Diwali episode of "The Office"
Have you been reading this and thought "Diwali sounds familiar?" If you're a fan of The Office, it should!
For episode six of season three, Mindy Kaling wrote the episode aptly titled "Diwali." You might remember Kelly inviting the whole office to a Diwali celebration, Ryan striking out with Kelly's parents, Michael Scott's (failed) proposal to Carol, and Michael's legendary Diwali song.
For Soni, the episode was a big moment.
"It was great. It was funny, it was sweet, it was appropriate, it was relevant, it was authentic," said Soni. "[It was] the first time, I think, many Americans were introduced to Diwali."
5. It's global!
Even though Diwali celebrates its South Asian roots, the Festival of Lights is open to people of all ethnicities and backgrounds.
"It's an opportunity to bring people together who have shared values, goals, dreams, hopes, and in many cases are related to each other but might not see each other that often," said Soni. "Diwali is that moment for Hindus specifically, and I would say for many Indians, not just Hindus."
"This was the time… to talk about diversity and inclusion," said Marshall student Mona Raithatha, whose group is organizing a Diwali celebration here on campus tonight. "I wanted to ensure everyone knows about Diwali."
Ryan Temple contributed to this story.