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Diwali: Where to Celebrate the Festival of Lights Around Seattle and the Eastside

October 19, 2017

Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, is the day I most eagerly anticipate every year. Decorating our home with lights and flowers, eating delicious food, buying and wearing new clothes… what’s not to love? The last two Diwalis have become infinitely more significant, as I’m creating new traditions with my 14-month-old son, Veer. This year, Diwali falls on Thursday, Oct. 19.

For practicing Hindus, this ancient festival denotes the defeat of the evil Ravana by Lord Rama and Sita. For me, as a parent, the festival’s significance has grown. In a world that seems dark and bleak, a tradition that celebrates the triumph of good over evil and of love and family, stands as a beacon of light and hope. Even for those who don’t celebrate the holiday's religious significance — and many don’t in the countries where I’ve lived, including in Singapore and India — it can still be an incredible way to bring together different communities to bond over celebration and food.

Speaking of food, feasting is an important part of typical Diwali celebrations. In our home, my mother would make fried bread (pooris) to be eaten with a flavorful potato curry, as well as a whole host of Indian desserts (mithai). Every family has its own traditions about meals, but sweets always take centerstage on Diwali. To pay homage, every year I attempt to recreate my mother’s halwa, a deceptively-simple sounding and delicious dessert made of flour, clarified butter and sugar.

Here in Seattle, it’s easy for the holiday to come and go like any other day. Indeed, I’ve spent the majority of them at work since I moved to the United States, and I will do so again this year. But as evening comes, I and other observant Hindus rush home to light clay lamps, pray and feast with loved ones, striving to keep this rich tradition alive. Each family I’ve met over the world celebrates a little differently — some adorn their floors with patterns made of colored rice or sand (rangoli), like I do, in advance of the big day. Legend goes that decorating our homes invites Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, to bless us for the year ahead. Others host lavish Diwali parties for friends. I’ve usually celebrated privately with family, at home. But this year will be different.

Credit: Catherine Anstett

I’m excited to take my son Veer to various celebrations around town. In years past, we've shunned these hectic public gatherings, preferring to celebrate with only those close to us. But if not only for Veer’s sake, this time in history demands that we make new friends, and learn from and listen to people different from us. It becomes more crucial than ever to partake in each other’s traditions and cultures, to cherish the light amid the dark.

At its core, that is the spirit of this ancient festival. Read on for a list of local Diwali events, and perhaps we'll see you at some of them. From my family to yours, have a very happy Diwali!

Festal: Diwali — Lights of India

When: Saturday, Oct. 21, 11 a.m.–6 p.m.
Where: Seattle Center, 305 Harrison St., Seattle
Cost: FREE
Details: Festival of Lights will feature a flower mandala (rangoli) decorative arrangement on the floor, henna booth, saree booth, puppetry show and workshop for children, face painting, Indian chai corner and other attractions. With delicious food from many regions of India and tempting shopping opportunities presented by vendors, Festival of Lights promises to engage, entertain and inform attendees of all ages and cultural backgrounds.

Celebrate Diwali at the Bellevue Collection

Date: Saturday, Oct. 21, 11 a.m.–4 p.m.
Where: Bellevue Square center court, 575 Bellevue Square, Bellevue
Cost: FREE
Details: The community is invited to celebrate and learn about the Festival of Lights with Bollywood and other Indian dance performances, create-your-own rangoli workshop, samples of Indian sweet treats, henna art and more.

Bhartiyam Diwali Carnival

Date: Saturday, Oct. 21, 3:30–10 p.m.
Where: Bellevue High School, 10416 S.E. Wolverine Way, Bellevue
Cost: $20–$25/adult, $15–$17/child (ages 3–9); ages 2 and under free
Details: Enjoy an evening with theater class RAMLEELA, gourmet dinner, professional Indian cultural program, free family portrait, DJ, live music, Puja (Hindu prayers) followed by sparklers and an open dance floor.

Festival of Lights from Around the World Story Workshop

When: Saturday, Oct. 28, 1–1:45 p.m.
Location: Lake Hills Library, 15590 Lake Hills Boulevard, Bellevue
Cost: Free, limited tickets available 30 minutes before the reading.
Details: Recommended for ages 3 and older with families. Learn about celebrations like St. Lucia Day, the Winter Solstice, Loi Krathong, Diwali and other festivals of light from around the world.

Celebrate Diwali with the Rhythms of India

When: Saturday, Oct. 28, 3:45–4:45 p.m.
Where: Bellevue Library, 1111 110th Ave. N.E., Bellevue
Cost: FREE
Details: Dance performances and workshop for all ages. Experience Bhangra, Giddha and Bollywood dance as we celebrate the Indian Festival of Lights, Diwali!

IAWW Diwali 2017

When: Sunday, Oct. 29, 3:30–7 p.m.
Where: Skyline High School Sammamish, 1122 228th Ave SE, Sammamish, WA 98075.
Cost: $20 at the door; discounts for members and advance purchase; ages 4 and under free
Details: Celebrate the Festival of Lights with the Indian Association of Western Washington with an evening of music, dance, arts and food.

Diwali Family Festival

When: Saturday, Nov. 4, 11 a.m.–2 p.m.
Where: Seattle Art Museum, 1300 First Ave., Seattle
Cost: FREE (does not include admission to museum galleries); RSVP requested
Details: Craft paper sleeve lanterns to illuminate your home in celebration of Diwali.

Festival of Light Exhibit at Seattle Children’s Museum

When: Check website for schedule, typically during the month of December.
Where: Seattle Children’s Museum at Seattle Center, 305 Harrison St., Seattle
Cost: Included with museum admission
Details: Festivals of Light is an annual tradition at The Children’s Museum that explores various winter holiday celebrations from the perspective of a family. Children explore the food, decorations, games, activities and music associated with each holiday as they step into a ‘household’ amid their celebration.




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