Pandemic makes for a very different Diwali celebration for Montrealers this year

With the pandemic still raging in Quebec, those who celebrate Diwali have had to come up with ways to mark the occasion without gathering.

Home altars and home cooking is the new norm during the pandemic

Abhishek Mandal and Munmun Ghosh are celebrating Diwali at home by themselves this year rather than heading to India or inviting people over during the pandemic. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

Abhishek Mandal and Munmun Ghosh would usually be at the temple, or visiting family in India during Diwali.

Things are a bit different with the pandemic still raging in Quebec, so the couple set up an altar in their Montreal home to celebrate the festival of lights by themselves.

"Diwali is the celebration of good versus evil, knowledge versus ignorance and light versus darkness," Mandal said. "But this year, Diwali is more about survival."

The couple isn't holding back, adding splashes of colour and light to their home altar "so God can see that we are welcoming Him," said Ghosh.

"[So] that He can enter our house and He can bless us."

Diwali is mainly celebrated by Hindus and usually lasts five days. It is one of the most popular festivals of Hinduism. 

Mandal and Ghosh weren't the only people in the city looking for new ways to celebrate the holiday while staying safely distanced from others.

The Telugu Association of Montreal went virtual, posting songs, prayers and dancing to YouTube. Normally, the group hosts performances and celebrations in person this time of year.

"They get to see us and there is some kind of connection between all of us," said board member Lakshmi Tata.

"It gives the grandparents from the other side of the world a very warm feeling as well."

WATCH | Montrealers celebrate festival of lights at home this year: 

Montreal Diwali celebrations during a pandemic

2 years ago
Duration 0:57
Montrealers celebrating Diwali are facing a different reality this year, with COVID-19 restrictions in place.

People stream in and out of Le Marché Ganesh downtown, picking up supplies for the celebration. The grocery store imports Indian food and products.

Owner Srinath Narisetty said customers have told him they are planning to stay home and abide by public-health regulations, despite the desire to be with family and friends this time of year. 

"We don't need to feel any sadness about this thing," Narisetty said. 

"The government is taking care of measurements for our safety itself. So we need to adjust to that and obey the rules as well."

Le Marché Ganesh owner Srinath Narisetty said his store in downtown Montreal has been busy with people buying hand sanitizer and supplies to celebrate Diwali. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

Canada's chief medical officer, Dr. Theresa Tam said on Twitter that households across the globe are celebrating the holiday, but people must keep public health guidelines in mind.

"I recognize the emotional difficulty of keeping physically apart from family and friends, especially during traditional cultural celebratory times like these," she wrote.

"Thank you on behalf of all Canadians, for your diligence."

With files from Sarah Leavitt and Sudha Krishnan