Three of the attendees at SFU’s 2019 Diwali Gala at Surrey’s Crown Palace Banquet Hall. No such large gatherings are planned this year for Diwali, which is on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (File photo: facebook.com/simonfraseruniversity)

Three of the attendees at SFU’s 2019 Diwali Gala at Surrey’s Crown Palace Banquet Hall. No such large gatherings are planned this year for Diwali, which is on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (File photo: facebook.com/simonfraseruniversity)

‘Don’t gather to celebrate Diwali,’ Surrey mayor, business group urge

‘Festival of Light’ is traditionally celebrated for five days, this year starting Saturday, Nov. 14

Surrey’s mayor and board of trade CEO are among those encouraging residents and businesses to celebrate Diwali differently this year, in line with health and safety protocols.

The “Festival of Light” is traditionally celebrated for five days, this year starting Saturday, Nov. 14.

SBoT encourages people to “modify” their celebrations this year, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Do not gather inside or outside of your home or business to celebrate Diwali,” CEO Anita Huberman said in a news release posted to businessinsurrey.com.

“With the important event of Diwali occurring this weekend on Saturday, November 14, it is vital that everyone remain vigilant, social distance, and do not congregate in groups at the temple or visit each other’s homes. If everyone does their part and adheres to the Public Health Office’s orders, we can save lives and our economy.”

This year, Diwali celebrations must be approached differently, Mayor Doug McCallum said in a news release.

“With the recent sharp rise of new COVID-19 cases in Metro Vancouver a new Provincial Health Order was issued this past weekend and it is vital that Diwali celebrations comply with the new order,” McCallum urged.

“If we all do our part, we can rein in the spread of the virus and bring the curve back down. That is why it is more important than ever that this year’s celebrations are kept only to your immediate household as mandated by the Provincial Health Order. That means no social gatherings, whether they be indoors or outdoors, of any size beyond your immediate household.”

Diwali usually falls in either October or November, as its date is based on the Hindu lunar calendar. It celebrates victory of good over evil, light over darkness.

• RELATED STORY: New Canada Post stamp celebrates Diwali, festival of lights.

Surrey-based 5X Festival organizers will celebrate Diwali with a 5X MainStage event on the weekend of Nov. 14-15, online at 5xfest.com.

Typically at this time of year, Diwali is celebrated during large gatherings planned in Surrey and other cities of Metro Vancouver.

READ MORE, from 2019: Diwali in Surrey: ‘Festival of light’ celebrations at several halls, a library, other venues.

During Diwali, many people deliver sweets and other gifts to their loved ones and light a candle, or diya.

Instead, SBoT encourages people to consider lighting the diya at home with those they live with.

“Instead of giving gifts or sweets, donate to a charity or the temple in the name of your loved ones,” Huberman says. “Celebrate with your loved ones virtually by using digital technology.”

B.C. public health officials recorded another 536 COVID-19 cases up to Sunday and 462 cases up to Monday, Nov. 9, as new restrictions on residents and businesses were taking effect in the Lower Mainland.

The total of 998 new cases since Saturday continued the trend of being concentrated in the urban southwest, with 737 in the Fraser Health region and 210 in Vancouver Coastal.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry emphasized the new restrictions for those two regions are temporary.

“It is a short-term pause on non-essential activities and travel,” Henry said.

The new restrictions on the Metro Vancouver region were announced Nov. 7, after the B.C. Centre for Disease Control announced 567 COVID-19 cases in 24 hours.

“Although Saturday’s provincial health orders created some confusion,” Huberman said, “the fact is that this regionalized approach will help bend the curve of the virus. We must do all that we can to adhere to health and safety orders.

“If we do not adhere to these restrictions, people will continue to lose their lives, lose their job, businesses will shut down, the economy will go into a self-induced depression. It is time to get serious.”

Those who see people gathering in crowds/groups that disobey the PHO orders and urged to “do your part and report them” by contacting Surrey Bylaw Call Centre at 604-591-4370 or the Surrey RCMP non-emergency line at 604-599-0502. Less urgent violations can be reported online using the Report a Problem tool: https://my.surrey.ca/report-a-problem/home.

The SBoT news release outlines how Diwali is typically celebrated, along with suggested modifications during the pandemic:

“DAY ONE: People clean their homes and shop for gold or kitchen utensils to help bring good fortune.

“DAY TWO: People decorate their homes with clay lamps and create design patterns called rangoli on the floor using colored powders or sand

“DAY THREE: On the main day of the festival, families gather together for Lakshmi puja, a prayer to Goddess Lakshmi, followed by mouth-watering feasts and firework festivities. FAMILIES MUST NOT GATHER

“DAY FOUR: This is the first day of the new year, when friends and relatives visit with gifts and wish the best for the season. NO VISITING

“DAY FIVE: Brothers visit their married sisters, who welcome them with love and a lavish meal. NO VISITING”

with a file from Tom Fletcher, Black Press Media