For tens of thousands of Metro Vancouver residents Diwali is a time to celebrate light, spirituality, friends and family, and a shared love of sweets.
But as B.C. is hit with a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, and cases soar in the Fraser and Coastal health regions, families and friends have been ordered not to gather in groups in homes, temples, or even outside.
However, that doesn’t mean the lights have dimmed on the celebrations which this year will be online, says Diwali Fest creative director Kriti Dewan.
Diwali is a five-day Hindu festival of lights on Nov. 14. Diwali symbolizes the spiritual victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance.
Metro Vancouver’s Diwali Fest is an annual South Asian arts and culture festival, produced by the Diwali Celebration Society. The festival’s goal is to celebrate local artists and bring together people of all backgrounds in a celebration of “the universal light that exists in everyone.”
Dewan said this year will be hard for members of the community, who often get together with extended family and friends either at home or at the temple. There are usually dance shows, and other festive activities, as well as fireworks some years.
“Families usually gather at home for a Diwali prayer ceremony… and it’s a chance for families to exchange gifts. There is a lot of good food and sweets, similar to Christmas,” she said.
“People light candles, and put up twinkly lights outside because it is a festival of light. It’s a very festive time.”
A week before Diwali, Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, brought in new health orders for the two hardest hit regions of the province: Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health.
Under the restrictions, there are to be no social gatherings of any size with anyone other than your immediate household until Nov. 23 at noon.
This includes not only gatherings in your home, but also outdoors, at restaurants or at other venues. Restaurants can remain open but guests must stick to a table with their own household members.
So Metro Vancouver’s Diwali Fest is being held virtually this year, which Dewan said they had been planning for just in case the situation worsened.
They had planned to do live-streaming of the events but then decided they didn’t want their artists to be in close contact inside the venues so they decided to shoot videos of the performances outside to showcase some of Surrey and Vancouver’s iconic locations.
“We wanted to highlight some of the cool, unique venues in Vancouver and Surrey, and support our museums and art galleries, to showcase parts of the tourism industry that’s really hurting right now.”
So many of the performances were prepared ahead of time, and the performers are social distancing or wearing masks, she added.
“Families can watch the high energy videos, they can play them in the background while they are celebrating at home with their immediate family,” said Dewan.
“We usually invite people to come and dance onstage so this way they can still do that in their living room.”
The videos are available to watch on Facebook page.
More information can also be found at diwalifest.ca