How do Canadians celebrate Diwali?

Asheesh Moosapeta
Published: November 2, 2023

The 12th of November will mark the start of Diwali—an auspicious festival for over a billion people across the world.

Diwali is a (primarily Hindu) festival celebrated to commemorate the triumph of good over evil, the importance of new beginnings, and the meaning of honouring one’s ancestors (among many other things). Often called the "festival of lights", Diwali takes place over five days, with meanings connected to multiple auspicious events in Hinduism. The festival is further celebrated (with variations in ritual and meaning) by some sects of Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism. For many, Diwali also marks the start of the new year according to the Hindu Lunar calendar.

Keeping with this widespread significance, Diwali is also a noted festival in Canada, with public celebrations, recognition, special events, and more to commemorate the celebration here. Read on to learn more about how Diwali is celebrated in Canada.

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How is Diwali celebrated in Canada?

All the staples of Diwali festivities can be found in Canada—from shimmering oil lamps (or diyas) to colourful floor arrangements (or rangoli), the sharing of delicious food, the meeting of friends and family, singing, dancing, and more.

Usually, Diwali celebrations in Canada (outside of private celebrations) are organised by some sort of community organisation—often a university student organisation, cultural group, or temple. There are also bigger community events that are hosted in association with municipal governments, and often held at town centres. These celebrations often feature music, dancing, traditional Indian food fairs, marketplaces, and often fireworks.

If you are looking for Diwali celebrations open to the public, it is recommended to do a quick web search for events in your vicinity. Read on to learn more about some of the biggest Diwali celebrations in Canada’s biggest Indian communities.

Diwali celebrations in Mississauga. Canada's large Indian population is a key reason for Diwali's popularity here.

Several girls in traditional dress dance on a stage during Diwali festivities at Celebration Square in Mississauaga.

Diwali celebrations in Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA)

Diwali Festival of Lights

Organised by the Global Arts, Culture and Heritage Foundation, the Festival of Lights celebration is an annual event that claims to be the biggest Diwali celebration in North America.

Held on the 4th and 5th of November at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto—from 12-9pm—the festival will feature multiple Diwali fixtures, including fireworks, music and dance performances, and an extensive marketplace with over 100 local vendors featured. The event is free to attend and will take place during the same hours on both days.

Diwali Dhamaka 2023

Hosted by Dream Media Agency and Cocktail International Group Inc., Diwali Dhamaka 2023 will take place at the Capitol Banquet Centre in Mississauga on the 5th and 11th of November, between 12-9pm.

The event is free to attend and boasts entertainment for the entire family—including face painting, dancing and music, henna (a paste made from the henna tree, which stains the skin and is used for application of temporary body art) application, Diwali markets, and more. The event will also feature prizes for attendees, including awards for the best dressed, and raffle opportunities.

North York Diwali Fest—Festival of Lights

North York Diwali Fest is an event organised by the Moksha Canada Foundation and held at Mel Lastman Square between 11-9pm on November 11th.

The event will feature food, music performances, and Diwali shopping fairs—and interestingly also features arts and crafts workshops, giving attendees a chance to make their own decorations. The event will also feature a rangoli competition and is free to attend.

Diwali celebrations in Vancouver

Diwali celebrations in and around Vancouver are plenty, with the city boasting one of the biggest Indian populations in Canada. However, one staple of Diwali celebrations in the city is Diwali Fest.

Diwali Fest is an annual festival hosted by the Diwali Celebration Society, which consists of multiple events across Vancouver and Surrey. These events vary in price and what they have to offer. This year will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the festival’s introduction, and as such this year will adopt a “wedding-theme” throughout Diwali celebrations. Some of this year’s events include:

In addition, one Diwali celebration experience unique to British Columbia are the annual Diwali boat celebrations (made possible by the city’s costal location). These gatherings are organized by Vancouver Boat Parties. This year features two events:

Diwali celebrations in Montreal

With a comparatively smaller Indian population than Vancouver and Toronto, Montreal still holds Diwali celebrations for those who celebrate the festival.

One interesting event is the Candle Making Workshop hosted by the Pierrefonds Public Library. The event offers a chance at deeper understanding of the making and placement of diyas—as well as their religious and cultural significance during Diwali. The event is free to attend and takes place between 4:30-6pm on Friday November 10th.

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