While the number of COVID-19 cases continue to climb in Canada, families are being asked to celebrate Diwali differently this year.

Public health officials across the country are urging people to stay home and celebrate Diwali exclusively with members of their family household to limit the spread of COVID-19.

As parts of Canada move into tighter restrictions, bans on social gatherings remain and most religious services are being held virtually.

“I know it’s a very special time for many South Asian families and really for our whole community in the Region of Peel (in Ontario). Unfortunately, like every other holiday that’s happened in 2020, it’s just going to have to look a little different,” said Dr. Lawrence Loh, the Chief Medical Officer of Health in Peel.

The holiday that is usually celebrated with family get-togethers and fireworks will now be celebrated virtually and indoors this year, to limit the spread of the virus.

Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, begins Saturday and is celebrated by Hindus and other faiths for typically five days.

Diksha Pal Narayan is one of thousands of people who are adjusting the way she celebrates Diwali.
“Most of the (Greater Toronto Area) is in a Red Zone right now so we can’t celebrate with our friends here, but we are having Zoom parties with our friends and families,” she told CTV News Channel.

Narayan says that despite traditions, people need to find new ways of celebrating the festival.

The Milton, Ont.-based author published a series of children’s books that simplify Hindu customs for young people during Diwali. She explains that it is important for youth to understand the significance of Diwali despite traditions changing this year.

“All of us have to be responsible and we can’t ask other people to be responsible for us. We have to take the initiative ourselves,” she told CTV News Channel.

“We should be proud of the culture we come from and we should educate our children so they can make better decisions when it comes to their lives,” she said.

Diwali reminds us that truth, light, and goodness will always prevail. To celebrate that hopeful message and mark this important festival, I joined a virtual celebration earlier this evening. Happy Diwali to everyone celebrating!

— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) November 13, 2020

Monica Gupta and her family also plan to celebrate Diwali this year with their direct household. She said because some of her family members are vulnerable to COVID-19, they are prioritizing safety.

“It’s sad but we have to make sure everybody’s health is as important as anything else,” she said.

Organizers of Diwali Fest in Vancouver have been planning for months to broadcast live and pre-recorded performances to encourage people to celebrate from home.

“Being virtual now, the reach is really unlimited. And now people – not just locally –  but around the world can view these performances and events, and take joy in celebrating and watching at home with their families,” said organizer Kriti Dewan.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also participated in the annual virtual version of Diwali on the Hill celebrations.

While celebrating tradition is important, Narayan wants everyone to celebrate safely.

“If you want to go out to distribute sweets to your friends and family, maybe this year they will understand if you don’t. This time just make it all about your family,” said Narayan.

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