While Diwali celebrations will look different this year, South Asian residents across Metro Vancouver are finding ways to bring light, love, and joy into their homes in safe ways amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Diwali is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists across the world. It also coincides with the Sikh holiday Bandi Chhor Divas. This year, Diwali and Bandi Chhor Divas will take place on November 14.
Both festivals centre around the theme of light, which symbolizes the victory of good over evil.
Regional restrictions mean modifying traditions
Like Thanksgiving or Christmas, Diwali is a time to celebrate with family, share food, and make memories.
Families often light sparklers, set out diyaas (candles or small oil lamps), and even turn on their Christmas lights.
The days leading up to Diwali in a non-pandemic world would see many South Asian families across Metro Vancouver gearing up for festive celebrations by heading into sweet shops, prepping for large family dinners, and cooking delicious dishes for their loved ones.
This year, the festivities will definitely not be the same — especially here in Metro Vancouver — due to the recently implemented COVID-19 regional restrictions.
On November 7, BC health officials announced new orders for the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health regions calling for no indoor or outdoor gatherings of any size with members outside of your immediate household. The new orders are in place until November 23 at 12 pm.
While Diwali plans involving get-togethers must be cancelled, many are finding ways to carry on the traditions by scaling back while also encouraging others to do the same via social media.
Focus on “little pieces of joy”
Local lifestyle writer Raj Thandhi tells Daily Hive that Diwali is the festival her family celebrates in “the biggest way.”
“When our kids were little we decided that this is what we’re going to do, and every year we have a big Diwali party and all this, and obviously this year, that’s not happening. So my focus on my home this year is little pieces of joy,” she said.
As a content creator, Thandhi also shares how to spark the Diwali joy with her nearly 18,000 followers on her Instagram account, titled @pinkchai.
In the days leading up to Diwali, Thandhi has posted activities and recipes that can bring the entire family together at home.
View this post on Instagram
From sharing recipes for mouthwatering dishes such as mango paneer cake to beautiful DIY crafts, Thandhi wants to show others in the community that they too can bring light into their households, especially during darker times.
“We’re a giving community,” she told Daily Hive. “We celebrate together. We share our joys and griefs together, so it’s hard for us to say, you know, this year we can’t share with everybody and invite them into our homes but I think it’s perspective.”
Surrey resident Manveer Singh Sihota is another content creator sharing the Diwali joy on social media with his easy takes on traditional Indian desserts.
Sihota’s TikTok videos show him whipping up delicacies like gulab jamuns and rusgulle in a flash.
@turbanoutfitterDiwali isn’t Diwali without gulab jamuns! They’re super easy to make too! ##diwali ##diwalispecial ##WIP ##fyp ##recipe ##punjabitiktok ##surreypind♬ Basic Moments – Easy Jazz Music
With food being a significant part of Diwali festivities, many are putting on their chef’s hats.
New Westminster resident Tanushree Pillai shared her impressive lineup of home-cooked delights with Daily Hive. This year, she will be serving up a multitude of dishes including vadas, cholay bhaturay, papdi chaat, and gajar hawla to share with her immediate household.
Vancouver resident Shay Singh is using social media to share how fashion and personal style can be used as a way to still make the day feel special.
Look 2 🪔
I tend to keep my makeup pretty minimal on #Diwali so I thought I’d try something more glam for this one! I also typically don’t wear black for religious events but this was the first sari my grandparents ever gave to me so it holds a really special spot in my heart🖤 pic.twitter.com/wjxyWGvRIA
— Shay Singh (@littleshayla) November 12, 2020
She also shared how the day holds important religious and traditional significance to her family.
“Being Hindu, Diwali has always been more of a religious and spiritual day for my family. My mother and I stay home to symbolize the Lakshmis of the home, and excitedly cook our special Diwali menu, which consists of vegetarian biryani, coconut and dhunia chutney, nankhatai, and our specialty ras malai, which takes the longest but is so worth it,” she told Daily Hive.
“Given the restrictions of the pandemic, we sadly won’t be sharing the copious amounts of food that we usually cook with our family and friends and will be keeping it close between just my household.”
How to have a safe Diwali
Fraser Health has released culturally specific Diwali guidelines on its website and social channels.
Listen in Hindi: pic.twitter.com/6ulmkP8CVa
— Fraser Health (@Fraserhealth) November 11, 2020
Available in English, Punjabi, Hindi, the messaging centres around at-home celebrations with your immediate household and encourages using video calling as a way to connect with extended family and friends.
Fraser Health has also provided a list of virtual prayer options taking place at various Sikh Gurdwaras this year.
Local religious groups are also using social media outreach to give detailed translations regarding the new regional orders and how they apply to Diwali and Bandi Chhor Divas.
The BC Gurdwara Council recently answered online questions in Punjabi in a Facebook video in order to share the messaging with the broader community.
Apart from the health protocols, there is one significant message that Thandhi hopes to share with others.
“A really important thing that we have to remember this year is that the entire Diwali story is about the power of good over evil […] the idea is that people can come together, and light is greater than darkness,” she said.
“I think this year more than ever the Diwali story is so important because, you know, we’re protecting our families and our seniors and we are saying that positivity wins over negativity by staying home this Diwali.”