After Hudson County’s winter of discontent, almost everyone is welcoming spring, with just a sigh of relief or a little salute to that stalwart crocus pushing up from the earth.
The Indian community welcomed the new season with a Festival of Colors last Sunday.
The festival was hosted by the Indian Caucus of Secaucus, which was formed eight months ago, and it was the first of a year of events to celebrate the area’s Indian heritage.
Rajesh Nagpal, founder and president of the organization, moved to Secaucus from Jersey City 10 years ago and works at USPS.
“We want to let people know that these are the festivals that we do back in India.” – Rajesh Nagpal
The organization annually presents a roster of traditional Indian festivals in the area. The celebration of India’s independence from British rule takes place in August. This year will mark the 64th anniversary of independence. Diwali, or the Festival of Lights, takes place in November. All festivals are free.
The Festival for Indian Independence will be celebrated on Aug. 15 this year. It will feature a cultural program with kids singing and dancing on stage.
“It was a big hit last year,” Nagpal said. “Over 600 people came and enjoyed themselves and the entertainment.”
The Independence Day event is held in Buchmuller Park, but if it rains, the festivities move to the high school.
The food is catered by a number of Indian restaurants, including Tadka at 1297 Paterson Plank Road and Mausam at 1150 Patterson Plank Road in Secaucus.
Food offerings include shish kabab and chicken on the grill.
Diwali, or the Festival of Lights, is held in either October or November, wherever it falls on the Indian religious calendar.
Traditionally, revelers light candles and firecrackers, although in Secaucus there will be no firecrackers.
If the weather is good, it will be held in Buchmuller Park. If not, it will move inside to the high school.
“Traditionally we keep the house lights on for three days,” Nagpal said. “They symbolize good triumphing over evil.”
Food, drink, and entertainment also play a part in the Festival of Lights. “Vendors show merchandise,” Nagpal said.
The goods include bangles, necklaces, and a traditional Indian outfit, known as salwar kameez, which are pants and an embroidered shirt for women.
Nagpal said that as many as 1,000 might attend the Festival of Lights.
“We’ve been getting a good response to the festivals from the people of Secaucus,” Nagpal said. A number of dignitaries RSVP’d for the Festival of Colors, including the mayor of Secaucus, the Town Council, the superintendent of schools, and a representative from the Indian consulate in New York. Nagpal said they even received a letter from Sen. Frank Lautenberg saying he was sorry he could not attend.
“The whole scenario is to promote Indian culture and let people see that this is how we celebrate back in India,” he said.
Nagpal said that after so many people in town had experienced and enjoyed the festivals, the Indian Caucus of Secaucus was asked to march with their own banner in the Memorial Day parade.
“We want people to know what they are missing if they don’t come out to these functions,” Nagpal said.
Kate Rounds can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org..