British Columbia

Diwali kicks off in Vancouver, more events to come

One of the biggest holidays in India is being celebrated at locations throughout Vancouver and Surrey.

Festival of Light marks a special time of year for many Metro Vancouver residents with South Asian roots

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson declares Saturday, Oct 29, 2016 Diwali Day in Vancouver. (Diwalifest/Twitter)

Diwali, the festival of light, is the second largest holiday for many people in Metro Vancouver and a chance for Hindu and Sikh families to gather over good food and exchange gifts.

A fashion show was part of the Diwali Fest at the Roundhouse Community Centre in Vancouver's Yaletown on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016. (Diwali Fest/Twitter)

The holiday celebrates the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness. In India, Diwali is often celebrated by lighting small oil lamps called diyas and setting off fireworks.

"It is very much oriented around the home because it's about illumination," said cultural advocate Mo Dhaliwal.

"More than anything it's a recognition of the sort of hope we all have but there's a real focus on prosperity, success, illumination ... positivity."

On Saturday, Diwali kicked off in Vancouver with a "Diwali Downtown" event at the the Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre in Yaletown that included music, dance performances, a room-sized rangoli, delicious cuisine and a fashion show.

Diwali Treats from Dhaliwal Sweets on Fraser Street in Vancouver tempt sugar lovers. (Charlie Smith)

On Sunday, Punjabi singer Harjit Harman will perform at Central City Plaza in Surrey starting at 1 p.m. PT. 

And Diwali Fest will continue with events until the third week in November. Nov. 5 will be the marquee Diwali Downtown Surrey event.

Many people, like Fruiticana store-owner Tony Singh, have been preparing for the holiday for weeks.

"We bring in Diwali products for Diwali ...  12 to 14 containers extra just for that one weekend," he said.

Fruiticana owner Tony Singh brought extra items, like cookware, to his Surrey store for Diwali preparations. (Fruiticana)

Dhaliwal says for those who can't get out to events, a drive through certain neighbourhoods should help light up the festival for them.

"The way to see it would be to drive through any South Asian or Punjabi neighbourhood. You might see Christmas lights turned on, wondering why they're on," he said. "But Christmas lights take on additional significance in this region, because of Diwali lights you'll see many houses lit up."

On Friday, Premier Christy Clark encouraged all residents to participate in Diwali and Bandi Chhor Divas, a Sikh festival that coincides with Diwali.

"As British Columbians of all backgrounds participate in festive celebrations, we have an occasion to recognize and take pride in our province's rich cultural diversity," she said in a release.

with files from Megan Batchelor