FLORIDA, U.S., October 15, 2012 (Huffington Post, by Vasudha Narayanan): Formal, printed invitations in previous years, and now e-vites start coming in September to announce the coming of the festival of Navratri (literally, "nine nights"). The invitations, issued by those whose original home is or was in parts of South India, are printed in women's names, and announce gatherings at one's home -- in a manner of "open houses" -- to celebrate Lakshmi, the Goddess of grace and good fortune; Durga, the Goddess of valor and strength; and Saraswati, the patron Goddess of learning and the performing arts. (Hindus, all over the world, tend to associate Durga, more than any other deity, with the Fall festival of Navratri.)
"We cordially invite you for Navratri-Kolu," say the e-vites. Women and young girls from south Indian families -- and now, extended to people from many parts of India in the diaspora -- visit friends' houses on the appointed days to view and admire the display of dolls (kolu or "sitting in state") set up on tiered platforms which are draped with a white cloth or, sometimes, silk sarees. They are in the process of what many wryly call "kolu hopping." They sing and hear classical songs (most of them in honor of the goddesses), play musical instruments, eat snacks, collect party favors and move on to the next house on the e-vite list.
Since the Hindu calendar is lunar -- it is adjusted periodically to the solar calendar -- Navratri (which is commonly spelled "Navaratri" following the Sanskrit) generally begins with the new moon that comes between mid-September and mid-October. In some years, such as this one, Navratri begins one lunar cycle later.
While Hindus all over the world celebrate this festival, they do so in different ways and, sometimes, for different reasons. People of many castes celebrate the festival with regional differences being more important than caste differences. The festival is celebrated for goddesses in south Indian temples also, but it is largely and popularly connected with domestic and public spaces rather than temples. An understanding of this festival gives us an idea of the diversity and complexity of the many Hindu communities, and at the same time, the connecting threads between these traditions. This festival, as most others in India and other parts of the world, celebrates the victory of good over the forces of evil, be they outside or within oneself. This is a time for Devi, the Goddess, a reflection on and valorizing of what is considered to be the "feminine" energy of the divine-- and its presence is acknowledged in girls, women and the Goddess.
For much more on the celebration of Navaratri see 'source' above.