The Hindu Festival of Diwali has a common theme of light overcoming darkness, and is often called the Festival of Lights. That image – of light after darkness – provides the theme for this primary assembly

You’re going to light a candle.

Be prepared to make the room or hall as dark as you reasonably can. If possible, begin in darkness. Then during the assembly you’ll be allowing light to return.

Let’s be dark and quiet and peaceful for a while. [Keep silence for a time]

Today we’re going to think about Diwali, a Festival celebrated by Hindus. Many stories are told at the time of Diwali (refer to any you’ve covered in school) but the main thing about it is that it celebrates light overcoming darkness, good overcoming evil. As light comes into our lives, so we welcome joy and hope and friendship into our lives.

Now I’m going to light a candle.

[Light a candle OR

Have a child or a colleague come into the dark room quietly carrying a lighted candle.]

Look at this candle. What a wonderful thing it is, shining in the darkness. You know no matter how dark it is, the candle burns brightly. In fact the more darkness there is, the brighter the candle appears to burn. It’s as if the flame of the candle, and the light that comes from it, is bravely driving away the darkness. See how tiny its flame is, and see how big is the dark room, and yet it’s the candle that overcomes the darkness and not the other way round.

Light will always overcome darkness. That’s one of the messages of Diwali. That’s why people put lights in their houses at Diwali, as well as lights outside their houses and in the streets. And that’s why they set off fireworks to brighten the sky.

Light overcoming darkness.

[Put the lights back on, or open the curtains]

And just as the candle drives away the darkness, and we bring daylight back into our hall, in a similar way we must remember that no matter how gloomy we become, or sad, or depressed, we can be sure that goodness and love and true friendship will return to us.

In our story, a lady who has some darkness in her lift sets out to find the light of friendship.


Mrs O’Leary was feeling a bit down one October day. The house was quiet, and outside the day looked gloomy. It was one of those damp and cloudy autumn days that remind you just a little too much of the approaching winter and the darker days to come in December and January.

She sighed and got up to stretch her legs, and found herself, as she so often did these days, standing at the mantelpiece looking at the photograph of herself and her husband Jim.

She picked up the photograph, and held it in her left hand, and ran her right hand gently over it, as if she could touch the happiness that she could see there. Her and Jim. Smiling at the camera, as they always did. She said it out loud, “Sarah and Jim.”

Because that’s what they had always been. A couple. People would say, “Will Sarah and Jim be there?” Or, “We’ll have to ask Sarah and Jim over.”

Now it was just Sarah. She’d said farewell to Jim in the late Spring, at a lovely funeral in the church where they were married in 1959.

Somehow, during the summer, things hadn’t seemed so bad. People dropped in to see her, and she got invited out. But now, the days were growing shorter, and people seemed somehow to be busy with other things, and she began to think that the coming winter would be lonely and long.

“Still,” she though. “I have to get on with it.”

So she put the photograph back, and went into the hall and put on her coat. Even though it was starting to get dark, she went out to the end of the road to catch the bus into town. She didn’t enjoy being in the empty house in the evening, and she often went on the bus into town just to make the time go by a little. Not that there would be much to do. She’d get off at the big shopping mall, have a look round and then catch the bus back, and then she would shut the door and settle down for the long evening.

But tonight it was a bit different. As the bus grew nearer to town, she began to see lights hanging across the road. More and more of them, all different colours, on the shops and in the windows; a wonderful display of coloured light.

Mrs O’Leary stepped off the bus across the road from the shopping mall, and looked slowly round, her face turned up to the lights, and somehow some of the gloominess seemed to leave her.

“Diwali!” She said to herself. “I’d forgotten all about it. Light overcoming darkness.”

Just the thought, made her more cheerful, and then she had another thought. She remembered a lovely sweet-smelling shop on the shopping mall that had all kinds of Asian and Chinese ornaments and herbs and things for sale. She smiled, because she’d had a bright idea.

“And it really is a bright idea,” she said to herself. “Bright in every way.”

So she went to the shop and spent, well, a bit more than she should have done.

“But who cares?” she said to herself.

Then she hurried back to the bus stop.

When she got home, she got busy. It was completely dark now, but Mrs O’Leary worked away in the darkness out at the front of her house.

When she had finished, along her front path, all the way to the road, there were lanterns; each with a big candle inside. There were ten lanterns in all, each one a different colour; five on each side of the path, glowing warm and welcoming in the dark.

Then she went inside and put candles in her window. And just as she thought she’d finished she had one final thought, and she picked up the photograph of herself and Jim and put that in the window too.

“There you are, Jim,” she said. “Look what I’ve done. You’ll say I’m mad, but you’ll secretly like it. Because that was always your way.”

As she looked through the window, she saw curtains twitching and doors opening in the little street where she lived. She went outside, and looked up and down the street, and soon a door opened and Mrs Windsor, who she knew slightly, opened her door and looked out.

“My, that looks beautiful,” called Mrs Windsor. “So unusual.”

“It’s for Diwali,” said Mrs O’Leary. “Now why don’t you come and have a Diwali cup of tea with me,” she called. “The lanterns are there to light your way and make you welcome.”

Mrs Windsor was game for anything, and as she walked to Mrs O’Leary’s house she called to two other people who were looking out of there doors.

“Come on,” she said. “We’re off for a Diwali cup of tea with Mrs O’Leary.”

And so that evening, there was light and laughter at Mrs O’Leary’s house. Some of the darkness was driven from her heart, and she found just a bit of the friendship and love that she’d lost.

Diwali is a precious festival for people who are Hindus, and for people of some other faiths. But the idea of light overcoming darkness, and the return of love and friendship, is for everyone to share. Mrs O’Leary knew that, and so do we.

A prayer
Lord, you told us that you are the Light of the World, and we thank you that the message of good overcoming evil is for all people. We thank you for the joy of friendship. Help us to keep our friendships alive, and to be ready to give time and energy and love to those who have some darkness in their lives.

If we know that light will surely come, then we cannot fear the darkness.

Things to think about
Research the traditions and stories of Diwali.

Use the theme of darkness into light for your own story, or art work or drama.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in October 2008

About the author: Gerald Haigh