Our new photo series captures the love and light of holidays

As the days grow darker, the Festivities in Focus project aims to celebrate joy within a barrage of often difficult news.

Attendees gather around the Aarti plate

Devotees receive a blessing as the Aarti plate, made of metal and containing a flame, flowers and other important items for worship, circulates at the culmination of the Diwali celebrations at the Bellevue Hindu Temple and Cultural Center on Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. (Amanda Snyder/Crosscut)

We know the news can be dark. But as journalists, we can’t turn away from it. To keep Crosscut readers informed about the world around them, we often find ourselves reporting on difficult — at times deeply complicated and depressing — topics.

In just the past two weeks, Crosscut has delved into the dangerous toll wildfire smoke is taking on our health; the mental health of young people in the aftermath of yet another school shooting; and the record number of unhoused Seattleites who died on city streets last year


Though this reporting is essential, the constant barrage of these stories affects us, just as it affects our readers.

Dresses are handmade for women’s La Catrina performances, seen here at El Centro de la Raza’s Día de los Muertos celebration in Beacon Hill on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022. The original image of a La Catrina comes from an illustration satirizing rich, well-dressed women, but its meaning has evolved to symbolize an acceptance of death and remind people of their morality. (Amanda Snyder/Crosscut)

As the days grow darker this winter, the photo team here wanted to find a way to inject an extra dose of joy and light into our coverage. Thus the Festivities in Focus project was born. From October through February, Crosscut’s photographers are publishing a series of photo essays on various religious holidays and cultural celebrations in the region. 

After two holiday seasons of COVID shutdowns, surges and safety precautions, many communities are coming back together this year to celebrate sacred traditions in person again. Our photo staff is always looking for opportunities to direct our lenses toward events that are vibrant, visual and often overlooked in daily news, and we’re excited to venture out into the region and talk to people about the importance and history of these communal celebrations.

Pandits, or priests, unveil the lit diyas (clay lamps) during Deepotsav celebrations for the Bellevue Hindu Temple. (Amanda Snyder/Crosscut)

Staff photographer Amanda Snyder started the series in late October with her beautiful images of Bellevue’s Hindu community gathering to celebrate Diwali, some for the first time since 2019. A week later she photographed the colorful La Catrina dresses and altars remembering lost loved ones at El Centro de la Raza’s annual Día de los Muertos festival.

Acharya Gopal Datt Sharma holds out a lamp during the Maha Aarti, which light is offered to one or more deities, during Diwali celebrations at the Bellevue Hindu Temple and Cultural Center. (Amanda Snyder/Crosscut)

We are looking forward to sharing more stories filled with love and festivity over the next three months. If you have a tradition or celebration you think would be a good addition to the series, please email me at genna.martin@crosscut.com. After all, we could all use a little more light.

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