The festival of lights will look a little different this year. According to research by global digital payments company WorldRemit, 45% of the UK’s South Asian community were hoping to travel abroad to visit family and friends this weekend, but concerns about contracting or spreading COVID-19 (68%) and respect for travel restrictions (30%) have forced them to look a little closer to home for their 2020 Diwali celebrations.

Family comes first

The five-day festival is celebrated by faiths throughout the South Asian community, approximately four in five (82%) of whom say for them the holiday is all about being close to the ones you love. Just over half (51%) say that seeing friends and family is their favourite thing about the celebration; not even the food (47%), the religious meaning (37%), and giving presents (32%) beats spending quality time with their nearest and dearest.

Diwali is traditionally a time of coming together, and often that means travelling great distances. Three in four people (72%) have travelled abroad to see family and friends for Diwali at least once, with almost one in four (23%) doing so every year, and slightly more (26%) doing so most years. After a year of restrictions, 45% of people were still hoping to travel abroad for Diwali as recently as last month, with one in five already having tickets booked, but November’s national lockdown has made those travel plans all but impossible.

Four in five people (79%) are now worried Diwali just won’t be the same without seeing certain family and friends. And yet, that feeling of separation is motivating 78% of the people celebrating this weekend to show friends and family, even more, love this year as a result of the current situation, with 71% believing that Diwali holds particular significance in 2020 as people search for meaning and new ways to connect.

Nuria García, Chief Marketing Officer at WorldRemit said: “The festival of lights has always held a special significance for the South Asian community living in the UK. It arrives so soon after the clocks change and the nights start to roll in, bringing light, music, and a renewed sense of community for well over a million people across the country”.

“This year, that desire to light up the darkness is burning brighter than ever, and while people can’t travel to see friends and family, I’m sure that people will be finding creative ways to celebrate”, Nuria added.

Diwali goes digital

Three quarters (73%) of those celebrating in the UK will be trying to make the religious holiday as normal as possible, with just under half (49%) turning to video calls to celebrate Diwali with friends and family abroad, and a half (51%) planning to use a remittance service such as WorldRemit to either send gifts digitally or to help the family cover their own Diwali celebration expenses (41%).

More than a third (39%) of those sending money overseas this weekend will be sending more than they usually would, with many people saying this is predominantly because the pandemic has financially impacted their family and friends around the world (39%), or because they have been able to save more money than usual in recent months (36%). Nearly half (46%) of all respondents explained that they are now supporting a larger number of people as a direct result of COVID-19.

“It’s been such a challenging year for all of us, so it’s heartening to hear that two in five of the half a million or so people sending money to loved ones this Diwali will be increasing the amount they send this year to help those who might be impacted by the pandemic. Technology is bringing people together in countless different ways, and as we look ahead to the holiday season, I hope people can make the best use of it to support our communities and the people we love”, Nuria added.