Celebrate Diwali, festival of lights, in the midst of so much darkness


Diwali is the South Asian celebration of light over darkness, good over evil. And in a typical year, celebrations in Vancouver alone can draw crowds of 7,000 to 10,000 people.Like so many things during a pandemic, the festival celebrated this year on Saturday, November 14 will be different.

Festival creative director Kriti Devan said organizers this summer played with the idea of ​​physically distant events. But as they saw the number of COVID-19 cases increase, they preemptively stopped any kind of in-person celebration, focusing their efforts on creating a virtual experience.

And now, says Devan, his team is grateful for the foresight. Two of British Columbia’s health authorities – Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health – have faced the province’s toughest pandemic restrictions since the spring.

Cases have reached alarming levels, particularly in the Fraser Health Region. People are told not to meet with anyone outside of their own homes and to avoid all non-essential travel within and outside health authorities.

“Safety is first and foremost,” said Devan “We always want to educate, inspire and share the light. “

Culture-sensitive messaging

Festivals and informal celebrations across Canada are adapting. In Edmonton, a gurdwara who expects around 2,000 urges worshipers to wear masks, and will only leave 15 people in the prayer room at a time.

Sukhmeet Singh Sachal, a 26-year-old sophomore medical student at UBC, is among those promoting the message “spread lightness, not COVID-19” during Diwali.

He said in the summer that he noticed that at his gurdwara in Surrey, few seniors were masked, which made him wonder if BC’s public health messages were accessible enough to those for whom the information could save lives.

“If you think of the Punjabi community, a lot of the elders don’t speak English, and that’s a problem because if you don’t know the language of the news that comes to you, you won’t be able to understand that,” he said. .

This prompted Sachal to launch the COVID-19 Sikh Gurdwara initiative. With help from the Clinton Foundation, the organization creates messages aimed at Punjabi communities, including signs translating public health messages and a six-foot-long cardboard cutout mimicking the actual length of a turban to demonstrate physical distance.

A COVID-19 Sikh Gurdwara volunteer sews a mask. (Submitted by the Sikh Gurdwara COVID-19 Initiative)

“That’s where we stepped in, we take the language and translate it into Punjabi, but even more so in a culturally relevant way,” he said.

“I think people are starting to take it more seriously now, especially with a significant increase in cases in the Fraser Health area. I think people are fine now, we have to stop this before it becomes more of a problem.

Devan said canceling in-person events is a tough pill for some to swallow, especially after a summer and early fall when some aspects of life have returned to normal. But the organizers took inspiration from epic Bollywood films, asking performers and artists to film their performances outdoors and share them around the world.

“There has obviously been mixed reactions to this, people are disappointed that they cannot get together with family and friends like they normally do,” she said.

“But at the same time, a lot of people are encouraging others to organize home celebrations – online Diwali dance parties, virtual poetry readings – to keep that sense of community. “

Diwali is the South Asian celebration of light, featuring music, dancing and food. Festivals can attract thousands of people over several days. (Dan McGarvey / CBC)

She said Diwali fashion had also been taken to “another level” this year, with designers creating masks to match Diwali outfits, some selling for hundreds of dollars.

Sachal said creativity – from Diwali masks to virtual celebrations – shows the importance of celebration and the extent to which people try to do the right thing when health messages reach every community.

“People are constantly trying to adjust to things. I think that’s why it’s so important to get the message across to Diwali and celebrate it this way, because again, Diwali is about spreading light, not darkness. ”

Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health have listed recommendations specific to Diwali. These include:

  • Celebrate only with the people you live with in your home. Don’t invite guests.
  • Connect virtually with extended family. Say no to invitations.
  • Wear a mask when shopping for gifts, decorations, food.
  • Join the live broadcast prayers instead of visiting the temple in person and turn on the Divaa or Diya at home.
  • Share food safely. If you are preparing festive meals for your household, use individual portions and place the candies and appetizers on separate plates for each person.


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