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
In normal years, 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.
In 2021, Diwali Downtown Surrey and Diwali Downtown Vancouver were virtual events. Also in 2021 there was an in-person celebration at Trout Lake Community Centre. In addition to these “official” festival events, Diwali-themed boat parties took place in Vancouver. There was a family cruise and one for adults-only on the same night.
In 2022 Diwali Downtown Surrey took place on Sunday, October 16th. Diwali Downtown Vancouver is on Sunday, October 23rd. Both events return to in-person formats this year. There is also an event taking place on October 21st at the Vancouver Public Library.
Some Diwali Fest events only attract a couple of dozen people or so, but the main Surrey event attracts one or two hundred, and the Vancouver one often attracts even more. The Diwali-themed boat parties are especially popular.
What is Diwali Fest?
An annual Hindu festival of lights celebrated in the fall sometime between mid-October and mid-November, Diwali is one of the largest and most important festivals in India. The festival is often celebrated 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.
In a typical year, numerous events take place over the course of Diwali Fest, including two main ones – Diwali Downtown Surrey and Diwali Downtown Vancouver. Both 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 this time of year too.
Diwali Boat Parties
Although not official “Diwali Festival” events, most years there are Diwali-themed boat parties in either October or November in Vancouver. In 2022 there are two of them and they take place on Friday, October 21st, and Saturday, October 22nd. There is an adults-only (ages 19+) Diwali Fusion Bollywood Boat Party on the Friday night and a family-friendly Diwali Boat Party on the Saturday.
Both cruises take place on the Burrard Queen which is a 2-level party boat with an indoor deck and an outdoor deck. In both cases the vessel departs from False Creek at 760 Pacific Boulevard (not far from BC Place Stadium and the Plaza of Nations).
See below for details about both of these events.
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+)
In 2022 the Diwali Fusion Bollywood Boat Party happens on Friday, October 21st. It’s an adults-only nightclub-like Bollywood-themed cruise in the waters around the City of Vancouver.
Boarding for the party cruise starts at 8:00 pm. The boat departs at around 8:30 and returns by around 11:30 pm. The trip features Bollywood-style music, dancing and drinks for purchase. DJ Shalv plays a mix of Bollywood, Mashups and other tunes.
Ticket prices ranged between around $28 and $60 (including taxes and fees) depending on how far in advance you buy your tickets. Attendees are encouraged to wear traditional Indian attire (so expect to see lots of beautiful and colourful clothing)!
To learn more about this year’s event click Diwali Fusion Bollywood Boat Party 2022.
Diwali Boat Party (for all ages)
On Saturday, October 22nd, in 2022 there is the Diwali Boat Party. It’s also a party cruise with dancing and food and alcohol for sale, but this time it’s a family-friendly event for all ages. This second cruise runs from 8:00 pm until midnight. Boarding starts at 8 o’clock, the vessel departs at 8:30, it returns at 11:30 and everyone has to be off the boat by midnight.
At the Diwali Boat Party the music is also with DJ Shalv who plays a mix of Hindi, Punjabi and Bollywood, plus a bit of Telugu, Tamil and other tunes too. The dress code is Indian traditional (which is highly encouraged) or “clubbing” attire.
Tickets for this event also cost between around $28 and $60 depending on how far in advance you purchase your tickets. The earlier you buy them, the less expensive they are. Both food and drinks are available for purchase.
To learn more about this 2022 event click Diwali Boat Party 2022.
Diwali Downtown Surrey
In 2021 Diwali Downtown Surrey happened on October 24th. However, the event was a digital showcase with several performances on YouTube.
The event returned to its normal in-person format in 2022. This year, Diwali Downtown Surrey happened at Surrey City Hall at 13450-104th Avenue. The event ran on October 16th from 2:00 to 4:00 pm. There were live performances and activities for all.
Diwali Downtown Surrey is usually free to attend. It’s not a huge event, attracting less than a couple of hundred people at any given time most years (or at least that’s been the case when we’ve attended). The event often features about a dozen vendors and community organization information booths along with live entertainment in the city council chambers.
Typical entertainment at Diwali Downtown Surrey includes belly dancing, singing, various Indian dance performances and sari-wearing demonstrations.
Diwali Downtown Vancouver
In 2022 Diwali Downtown Vancouver returns on Sunday, October 23rd, from 2:00 to 5:00 pm at the Roundhouse Community Centre. Diwali Downtown Vancouver is 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.
In 2022 there is an interactive Rangoli installation, Henna design station and a place where you can paint a clay lamp. There is also a Diwali-themed market and a selection of food trucks on-site.
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.
To learn more about Diwali Fest, including event dates and other 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.