A Mission for a multicultural Diwali

Community, Off The Vine

If you’ve ever seen satellite images of the globe during Diwali, you understand what a celebration of light means. The entire Indian peninsula is lit up brighter than any city, from the Alps all the way down to the very tip of the country. Vibrant colours, and strings of light call out into the night sky.

Diwali is a celebration light overcoming darkness, a multi faith holiday recognized across India during autumn. Each faith group has its own unique reasons for celebrating but its influence is universal. Diwali takes place over five days and is mostly celebrated in homes with the lighting of candles and firecrackers. The bright lights are a way of showing thanks to the heavens for abundance, and is made apt by its proximity to the time of harvest.

Halfway across the globe, Mission will be joining in the light this Diwali with a multicultural celebration. It’s a free, public event, and purportedly the largest Diwali celebration in the Fraser Valley. There will be dancing, free food, and a market.

“We’re integrating other cultures into Diwali,” said Mission Community Services organizer, Rick Rake. “We have Mexican dancers, we have Irish dancers, we have Ukrainian dancers. Of course, when we introduce them we’re going to show how they relate to light, in terms of their celebrations.”

The dancing opens at 6:00 p.m. on October 26, with an instrumental act by students of Dashmesh Punjabi School. Following that will be an array of multicultural dances including two dance acts from Dashmesh, and the bhangra dance club from the University of the Fraser Valley.

“The Fraser Valley Hindu Cultural Society is providing all of the food. [All] the food will be cooked at the Sikh temple in Mission,” said Rake. The food will be served as a buffet inside the theatre, and followed up by the main dancing events.

Highlighting this, the foyer of the theatre will be turned into an international marketplace and community centre. “I’ve got a team that’s going to take the entranceway to the Clark Theatre, and with 15 strings of lights and all of these paper garlands around, to make it look like Diwali,” said Rake. The market will feature booths from the Mission Library, Women’s Resource Society of the Fraser Valley, Victoria Hair Salon, Mission Food Centre, and many others. There will also be opportunities to have henna done.

Mission’s Diwali celebrations have been going on for six years now, having started out in just a small classroom in Heritage Park. “More people came aboard, more volunteers came to help, sponsors came aboard,” said Rake. “It touched a nerve with people.” Since then, Rick Rake says he sees a turnout of about 1,000 people every year.

“The doors are open to everybody,” says Rake.

According to Rick Rake, the focus of Mission’s Diwali is to help educate people about other cultures. “If you understand the culture, there’s no fear,” says Rake. The Fraser Valley has a diverse cultural background, and with so many communities sometimes there can be misunderstandings among them. With education, Rake hopes, the borders can be brought down.

Rake is hoping to make this year’s celebration one of Mission’s biggest. Though the celebration is located in Mission, Rake says he gets visitors coming out from all corners of the Fraser Valley.

Black tri-dot

Image by: Rajan Manickavasagam / flickr