The Lower Mainland celebrates the Diwali Festival every autumn with East Indian cultural celebrations taking place in Vancouver, Surrey and elsewhere.
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Diwali Festival in Vancouver and Surrey
In 2021, Diwali Downtown Surrey happened on October 24th. Diwali Downtown Vancouver, meanwhile, happened on November 2nd. Both events were virtual, and both took place from 2:00 until 3:00 pm. Also in 2021 was an in-person celebration at Trout Lake Community Centre on November 7th.
In addition to these “official” festival events, Diwali-themed boat parties also took place in Vancouver. There was a family cruise in the afternoon of November 6th and one for adults-only that same night. (For details about the celebrations on the water, see the Vancouver Boat Parties website.)
In years without pandemics, 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 include plays, storytelling, music and dance performances.
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 attracts even more. The Diwali-themed boat parties are especially popular.
In 2019 Diwali Downtown Surrey took place on October 5th. Diwali Downtown Vancouver, meanwhile, was on October 26th. Both were free or by donation. In 2020, the events took place online. Diwali Downtown Surrey happened on November 1st and Diwali Downtown Vancouver was on November 7th.
In 2022 Diwali Downtown Surrey takes place on Saturday, October 15th. Diwali Downtown Vancouver is scheduled for Sunday, October 23rd. Both events are happening in-person this year.
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 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 November in Vancouver. In 2021 there were two of them and they took place on Saturday, November 6th. There was a Diwali Fusion Family Boat Party from the afternoon until early evening, and a Diwali Fusion Indian Boat Party for adults (ages 19+) at night.
Both cruises took place on the Burrard Queen which is a 2-level yacht 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). Proof of full vaccination status was required for all attendees.
For full details about the events see the Vancouver Boat Parties website or call 1-888-450-3991.
Diwali Fusion Family Boat Party
Boarding for the family-friendly cruise started at 3:00 pm. The boat departed at 3:30 and returned by around 6:30 pm. The trip featured Bollywood-style music, dancing and drinks for purchase. DJ ASB played a mix of Hindi, Punjabi, South Indian, Bollywood and other regional music.
Ticket prices ranged between around $40 and $85 (including taxes and fees) depending on how far in advance you bought your tickets. Included with admission was light food catered by Vancouver Hyderabadi Kitchen. Attendees were encouraged to wear traditional Indian attire (so there was probably lots of beautiful colours).
To learn more about this event click Diwali Family Cruise 2021.
Diwali Fusion Indian Boat Party (for ages 19+)
Also on Saturday, November 6th, in 2021 there was the Diwali Fusion Indian Boat Party. It was a fully-licensed event, so for adults only.
This second cruise ran from 8:00 pm until midnight. Boarding started at 8 o’clock, the vessel departed at 8:30, it returned at 11:30 and everyone had to be off the boat by midnight.
At the Diwali Fusion Indian Boat Party the music was also with DJ ASB who played a mix of Hindi, Punjabi and Bollywood, plus a bit of Hip Hop, R&B, Telugu, Tamil and other tunes too. The dress code was Indian traditional (which was highly encouraged) or “clubbing” attire.
Tickets cost between around $40 and $85 depending on how far in advance you purchased your tickets. The earlier you bought them, the less expensive they were. Both food and drinks were available for purchase.
To learn more about this event click Diwali Fusion Indian Boat Party 2021.
Diwali Downtown Surrey
In 2021 Diwali Downtown Surrey happened on October 24th from 2:00 to 3:00 pm. However, the event was a digital showcase for the year. There were likely several performances by local artists on YouTube.
Diwali Downtown Surrey takes place at Surrey City Hall at 13450-104th Avenue on October 15th in 2022 from 2:00 to 4:00 pm. It’s happening as an in-person event with live performances and activities for all.
Diwali Downtown Surrey is free to attend. It’s not a huge event, attracting less than a couple of hundred people at any given time most years. It 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
Diwali Downtown Vancouver usually takes place at the Roundhouse Community Centre at 181 Roundhouse Mews in Yaletown. In 2019 it happened on October 26th from 12:30 to 4:30 pm. Activities generally include a variety of live music and dance performances.
In 2021, in-person activities happened at the Roundhouse again on October 23rd from 2:00 to 4:30 pm. There was a Diya Painting workshop, along with opportunities to fill in large Rangolis and make greeting cards. However, there were no in-person performances in 2021. Instead, the entertainment happened online during Diwali Downtown on November 2nd from 2:00 to 3:00 pm.
In addition to the downtown events, there was also a Diwali celebration at the Trout Lake Community Centre. It took place on Sunday, November 7th in 2021. Tickets sold out fast, but the event featured storytelling, diya decorating and traditional music. Snacks at the venue included samosas, chai tea, sweets and more. Click Diwali at Trout Lake for more information about the in-person event.
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 as well. There is usually a bit of food to sample too.
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.