British Columbia

B.C. health officials emphasize safe ways to celebrate Diwali during COVID spike

Diwali is on Saturday, Nov. 14, and celebrants are being encouraged to keep things virtual during the holiday.

Diwali, a celebration of lights with roots in South Asia, falls on Saturday this year

Diwali is a multi-faith festival celebrated by many members of the South Asian diaspora. This year, the festival falls on Nov. 14, within the two-week COVID-19 restriction period for the Lower Mainland. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

With new health orders in place due to COVID-19 cases spiking in the Lower Mainland, community advocates and health officials are recommending celebrating a virtual Diwali this year. 

Last Saturday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry introduced new orders for the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions — areas of the province with almost three million residents. 

The restrictions will overlap with Diwali this year, which falls on Nov. 14. The multi-faith festival of lights, which is celebrated by many in the South Asian disapora, is usually a time of celebration and family get-togethers. 

The COVID-19 orders mean people in the two regions are not to have social interactions with anyone outside of their immediate households. Travel to and from the region is been discouraged.

On Monday, Dr. Henry further clarified the orders, telling people to postpone social gatherings, cancel play dates, work from home whenever possible and pause non-essential travel. 

Anita Huberman, the CEO of Surrey's Board of Trade, says the holiday is a very important event for Surrey and British Columbia, but rising COVID numbers make the celebration a concern.

"Diwali is a huge concern because it is a festival. A gathering. A festival of families. But we need to make this short-term sacrifice today for a better tomorrow," Huberman said. 

This year, health officials are recommending that sweets and appetizers be served in individual bowls and on separate plates for each person. (Indian Food Images/Shutterstock)

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

  • Only celebrating with people you live with in your home. Do not invite guests.
  • Connect virtually with extended family. Say no to invitations.
  • Wear a mask when shopping for gifts, decorations, food.
  • Join live-streamed prayers instead of visiting the temple in person and light the Divaa or Diya at home.
  • Share food safely. If you are preparing festive meals for your household, use individual servings, and place sweets and appetizers on separate plates for each person. 

On Vancouver Island, which are not covered by the stricter COVID restrictions, Sridevi Ganti, the public relations officer for the Victoria Hindu Temple, says celebrations this year will still be virtual. 

The temple will be open, but devotees are asked to come in, pray, pick up their sweets, and leave quickly. 

"We're trying not to eat at the temple, at the premises, so that we want to keep it safe for everyone. We have sanitizers set up at every station and we are wanting all the people that come in to wear masks as well," Ganti said. 

Diwali, she says, is a time of renewal and celebrating goodness over evil. 

"We want to bring light over darkness, and with COVID, we also want the evil COVID to leave and bring goodness in our lives back again … that's what I'm wishing for," Ganti said. 

With files from BC Today, All Points West