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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 15, 2019


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 Sunday, Oct. 27, and local celebrations begin Oct. 19 (see below).

For practicing Hindus, this ancient festival marks 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 love and family and the triumph of good over evil, 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 places 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 center stage 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 many of them at work since I moved to the United States. 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 around the world celebrates a little differently — some adorn their floors with patterns made of colored rice or sand (rangoli), as 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. In the past, I’ve usually celebrated privately with family, at home.

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 who are different from us. It is more crucial than ever to partake in each other’s traditions and cultures, to cherish the light in 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!

Celebrate Diwali at the Bellevue Collection

When: Saturday, Oct. 19, 11 a.m.–6 p.m.
Where: Bellevue Square center court, 575 Bellevue Square, Bellevue
Cost: FREE
Details: Start with a Bollywood fitness class (11 a.m.), then enjoy various dance performances and workshops (starting at noon). All are welcome for a create-your-own rangoli workshop, free henna body art and a create-a-lantern station.

Diwali Festival of Lights at the Y

When: Sunday, Oct. 20, 1–3 p.m.
Where: Bellevue Family YMCA, 14230 Bel-Red Rd.
Cost: FREE and open to the public
Details: The Y celebrates Diwali with a dance performance, crafts, henna and sweets to share. All welcome.

Diwali Paper Luminarias Workshop

When: Sunday, Oct. 20, 3–4:30 p.m.
Where: Sammamish Library, 825 228th Ave. N.E., Sammamish
Cost: FREE; preregister
Details: Celebrates Diwali by making a paper lantern to light up your festival of lights. For ages 8 and older; preregister.

Diwali Family Story Time

When: Wednesday, Oct. 23, 7–7:45 p.m.
Where: Mill Creek Library, 15429 Bothell-Everett Hwy.
Cost: FREE
Details: Learn about Diwali, decorate a diya and make your own lantern. For ages 10 and younger with families.

Festal: Diwali — Lights of India

When: Saturday, Oct. 26, noon–6 p.m.
Where: Seattle Center, 305 Harrison St., Seattle
Cost: FREE
Details: This family Diwali fest features a flower mandala (rangoli) decorative arrangement on the floor, a henna booth, a saree booth, puppet 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 celebration promises to engage, entertain and inform attendees of all ages and cultural backgrounds.

Bhartiyam Diwali Carnival

When: Saturday, Nov. 2, 5–9:30 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 younger free; preregister.
Details: Enjoy a cultural program that includes performances, a gourmet dinner, a free family portrait, sweets, music and an open dance floor.

Diwali Family Festival

When: Saturday, Nov. 16, 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: Enjoy exciting live performances at this family fest and craft your own lantern to take home.

Redmond Indian Cultural Associaton Diwali Event

When: Sunday, Nov. 17, 4–10 p.m.
Where: Interlake High School, 16245 N.E. 24th St., Bellevue
Cost: Pricing TBA
Details: Enjoy a delicious Indian dinner, including appetizers and dessert (and pizza for kids), live performances by adult and youth dance groups, a Bollywood DJ and a vendor marketplace.

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 2019.

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