Diwali is a time filled with light, joy, and family gatherings. Often referred to as the festival of lights, Diwali is one of the most festive holidays on the Indian calendar, symbolizing the victory of light over darkness and good over evil.
Over five days, starting in mid-October and ending in mid-November, families and friends will come together to celebrate the beginning of the new year for the Indian community.
Traditionally a religious Hindu holiday, Diwali is also celebrated by Jains, Sikhs, and some Buddhists. Whether it’s lighting diyas (clay oil lamps), enjoying delicious food, or thoroughly cleaning the home, the many diverse rituals and festivities are an opportunity for loved ones to gather and embark on prosperous new beginnings.
But Diwali is not just a religious holiday. It is an important cultural celebration for Indians and South Asian diaspora around the world, including here in British Columbia.
For many in the Lower Mainland, Diwali Fest has been at the heart of Diwali celebrations for two decades. Founded by a group of volunteers in 2003/2004, Diwali Fest has become one of the largest Diwali-themed events in the area with 100+ volunteers and a changing lineup of talented performers.
“There’s a lot of people here with a South Asian background, who have either lived here forever – but didn’t really have a central place to celebrate – or people who are newcomers, who are looking for that kind of connection to festivities back home,” says Kriti Dewan, creative director for Diwali Fest.
“It’s an inclusive event for anyone who wants to come and experience the joy of Diwali,” she says.
Diwali Fest events
While Diwali officially takes place on Nov. 12 this year, Diwali Fest is hosting a lead-up of South Asian wedding-themed events to mark its 20th anniversary.
So far, that theme has included a Mehendi (a ceremony to apply henna) and a Sangeet (a musical pre-wedding ceremony) at the Roundhouse Community Centre. The event featured food, henna stations, rangoli (traditional Indian decoration and pattern) and diya painting, as well as South Asian music and dance performances.
Haldi will be the next wedding-related event on Nov. 3 in Coquitlam at the Evergreen Cultural Centre. Haldi, also called maiyyan in Punjabi, is a pre-wedding ceremony that involves applying turmeric paste to the bride and groom, with the chance of an occasional water fight afterwards.
At the Coquitlam event, Diwali Fest will demonstrate the Haldi ceremony – along with music, dance, and artist talks with Sandeep Johal and Sara Khan about their latest exhibit at the Evergreen Cultural Centre, Rise. Attendees are encouraged to dress in yellow or orange, the bright colours of turmeric.
The last wedding-themed event is the big day, the Bharat (wedding procession) and Shaadi (a wedding ceremony) at the Surrey City Hall on Nov. 5 set to feature plenty of singing, dancing, arts and crafts, food, and a garland exchange.
For Dewan, the events are a great chance to engage with culture and celebrate the vibrancy and talent of the community.
“Our artists have been practicing for over six months,” says Dewan. “We have such a vibrant and talented South Asian art community, and just seeing them get on stage, there’s so much enthusiasm.”
With plenty of ways to get involved, attendees will have no shortage of opportunities to learn about the different ways Diwali is celebrated in B.C. and beyond.
“This year, with the special theme, it’s sure to be a lot of fun,” says Dewan.
For more information about the events, visit: