The Lower Mainland celebrates the Diwali Festival in autumn with East Indian cultural celebrations taking place in Vancouver, Surrey and elsewhere.
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Diwali Festival in Vancouver and Surrey
Two of the biggest events during the festival each year are Diwali Downtown Surrey and Diwali Downtown Vancouver. Other Diwali Fest events that take place throughout the region usually include plays, storytelling, music and dance performances.
Last year, Diwali Downtown Vancouver took place on October 29th and Diwali Downtown Surrey ran on November 5th. There was also Diwali in Coquitlam on November 3rd.
In addition to these “official” festival events, Diwali-themed boat parties usually take place in Vancouver. In 2023, cruises happened on the Friday and Saturday of November 10th and 11th.
Some Diwali Fest events only attract a couple of dozen people or so, but the main Surrey event typically attracts 100 to 200 people, and the Vancouver one often attracts even more. The Diwali-themed boat parties are especially popular.
What is Diwali Fest?
Diwali is an annual Hindu festival of lights celebrated in the fall sometime between mid-October and mid-November. It is one of the largest and most important festivals in India. People celebrate the festival with small clay lamps and other traditional art forms that symbolize good over evil.
In Vancouver, the Diwali Celebration Society hosts Diwali Fest with the aim of uniting people from different cultures through celebratory events.
Diwali Fest is an arts and culture festival that provides an opportunity to experience different elements of South Asian culture. Spread out over the month (or sometimes a month-and-a-half), and across the Lower Mainland, it’s a fair-sized festival made up of smaller individual events, some of which are free or by donation.
Numerous events take place over the course of Diwali Fest, including Diwali Downtown Surrey, Diwali in Coquitlam and Diwali Downtown Vancouver. All are free events (or by donation). They typically feature dance performances, live music, ethnic foods and a wide variety of both contemporary and classical Indian and South Asian culture. Diwali-themed dance parties also take place most years.
Diwali Boat Parties
Last year, there were two of them and they took place on Friday, November 10th, and Saturday, November 11th. The first was an adults-only (ages 19+) Diwali Fusion Bollywood Boat Party and the second was a family-friendly Diwali Boat Festival on the Saturday.
Both cruises took place on the Burrard Queen which is a two-level party boat with an indoor deck and an outdoor deck. In both cases the vessel departed from False Creek at 760 Pacific Boulevard (not far from BC Place Stadium and the Plaza of Nations).
For full details about the events, see the Vancouver Boat Parties website or call 1-888-450-3991.
Diwali Fusion Bollywood Boat Party (for ages 19+)
The Diwali Fusion Bollywood Boat Party happened on Friday, November 10th in 2023. It was an adults-only nightclub-like Bollywood-themed cruise in the waters around the City of Vancouver.
Boarding for the party cruise started at 8:00 pm. The boat sailed at around 8:30 pm and returned around 11:30 pm. The trip featured Bollywood-style music, dancing and drinks for purchase.
Ticket prices for this type of event usually range between around $30 and $75 depending on how far in advance you buy your tickets. Organizers encourage attendees to wear traditional Indian attire (there is lots of beautiful and colourful clothing to be seen)!
To learn more about the event, click Diwali Fusion Bollywood Boat Party.
Diwali Boat Party (for all ages)
On Saturday, November 11th last year, there was the Diwali Boat Festival. It was also a party cruise with Bollywood music and dancing, but this time it was a family-friendly event for all ages.
This second cruise ran from 6:00 pm until 10:00 pm. Unlike the other Diwali-themed cruise that happened this past year, dinner admission came with a complimentary dinner. The meal was biryani with raita and gravy.
Tickets for this event usually cost between around $40 and $85 depending on how far in advance people reserve their spots. The earlier you buy your tickets, the less expensive they are.
To learn more about this event, click Diwali Boat Festival.
Diwali Downtown Vancouver
Diwali Downtown Vancouver usually takes place at the Roundhouse Community Centre at 181 Roundhouse Mews in Yaletown. Last year was no exception. The event had a Sangeet theme and ran from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm on Sunday, October 29th.
It’s usually the largest of the festival’s various free (and by donation) events. It generally offers the most performances, along with the largest selection of vendor stalls and exhibits.
At the event expect to be entertained by a selection of dancers and musicians, and to immerse yourself in a bit of East Indian culture. The experience is very interesting. Not all performers at the event are of East Indian descent or origin. The performances themselves, however, are from or at least strongly influenced by the Indian subcontinent.
Diwali in Coquitlam
Diwali in Coquitlam was another celebration in 2023. It ran from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm on Friday, November 3rd, at the Evergreen Cultural Centre. The venue’s address is 1205 Pinetree Way in Coquitlam.
The event had a Haldi theme with a dance and music showcase. There was also an art exhibit to check out and a talk with the artists. Everyone was encouraged to wear yellow or orange.
Diwali Downtown Surrey
Diwali Downtown Surrey took place from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm on Sunday, November 5th last year. It had a Baraat (wedding procession) and Shaadi (wedding ceremony) theme. The event usually happens at Surrey City Hall at 13450-104th Avenue.
It’s not a huge event, attracting less than 200 people at any given time most years (or at least that’s been the case when we’ve attended). The event features live entertainment, food trucks, and various arts and crafts. Sparkling attire is encouraged.
To learn more about Diwali Fest, including events at different venues, check out the Diwali Celebration Society website.
For other opportunities to experience great cultural activities in the Lower Mainland, check out Vancouver’s best places for Culture and History.