BRIDGETON, Mo. – More than a thousand people celebrated Diwali with family and friends at the Swaminarayan Temple in Bridgeton.

It’s the first day of the Hindu year, and everyone is dressed in their best attire, kids are playing and running around, and families reunite.

“I live in Chicago right now. I’m visiting home. My brother also lives elsewhere, he’s come home for this,” said Pranati Parikh.

Parikh said her family looks forward to Diwali.

“Diwali and this new year time is on that everyone always looks forward to,” said Parth, Parikh’s brother. “It’s that time when people come together and worship.”

Diwali is a five-day celebration of gratitude, preparing freshly made vegetarian food as an offering to Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and good fortune, and Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom and learning.

“One big part of the Hindu faith is the idea of auspiciousness. The idea that if we all come together and wish well, we can actually make good things happen,” Parikh said.

Volunteers put the celebration together at the Swaminarayan Temple. Deena Patel said she’s grateful to have a Hindu organization that taught her the meaning behind this celebration.

“Diwali [is] the actual day of Ram, Bhagwan, lord, God – Ram coming home,” Patel said. “So there is this path that was lit up for him to come home, which is where the Celebration of Lights comes from.”

A puja, or a Hindu worship ritual inside the temple, is where worshippers light candles and sing.

“At the end of the day, you feel peace, and some point somewhere even, you are making God happy,” said Dharmesh Sharma.