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

A mom looks forward to sharing Diwali traditions with her son

Published on: October 18, 2018


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 few Diwalis have become infinitely more significant, as I’m creating new traditions with my young son, Veer. This year, Diwali falls on Wednesday, Nov. 7. (Local celebrations begin Oct. 20; see below.)

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, to me, 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.

Special foods and sweets

Speaking of food, feasting is an important part of typical Diwali celebrations. In my childhood 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.

diwali at the bellevue collection
Diwali festival performers at The Bellevue Collection

Community fests

I’m excited to take my son Veer to various celebrations around town. In years past, we've avoided 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 amongst 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. 20, 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, this Diwali fest promises to engage, entertain and inform attendees of all ages and cultural backgrounds.

Rangoli and Henna Art

When: Thursday–Friday, Nov. 1–2
Where: Lincoln South Food Hall, 500 Bellevue Way N.E., Bellevue
Cost: FREE
Details: Stop by Thursday and Friday to view rangoli artworks created by Seattle Maharashtra Mandal artists. On Friday (11 a.m.–2 p.m.), enjoy free henna body art applied by Sarahenna Organic Body Art.

Diwali Family Festival

When: Saturday, Nov. 3, 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: Tour the current exhibition "Peacock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur, India." Craft your own lantern to illuminate your home in celebration of Diwali.

Celebrate Diwali at the Bellevue Collection

When: Saturday, Nov. 3, 11 a.m.–7 p.m.
Where: Bellevue Square center court, 575 Bellevue Square, Bellevue
Cost: FREE
Details: Start with a Bollywood fitness class (9 a.m.), then enjoy various dance performanes and workshops (starting at 11 a.m.). All are welcome for create-your-own rangoli workshop, free henna body art, samples of Indian sweet treats and more.

Community Diwali Cultural Celebration

When: Saturday, Nov. 3, 5–7:30 p.m.
Where: Lake City Community Center, 12531 28th Ave. N.E., Seattle
Cost: FREE
Details: All welcome to join the Lake City Community Center and Seattle Public Library Lake City Branch for a cultural celebration of Diwali, a holiday celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains. Enjoy a potluck, stories and crafts. Everyone is invited to bring food for the potluck! Contact the library if you would like to help with henna, decorations, rangoli or crafts.

Bhartiyam Diwali Carnival

When: Sunday, Nov. 11, 3:30–9:30 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.

Festivals of Light activities at Seattle Children’s Museum

When: Check website for schedule, typically during the month of December.
Where: The 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 holiday celebrations from cultures around the world, such as Diwali, Kwanzaa, Las Posadas, Loi Krathong and more. Children explore the food, decorations, games, activities and music associated with each holiday.

Editor's note: This article was originally published in 2017 and updated for 2018.

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