Spring officially arrives in Vancouver with the annual Vaisakhi parade. In my mind, a festival unrivaled for attendance, inclusion and sense of what makes Canada’s heart beat. A day when weather scoffs at forecasts of rain, preferring the call of Bangra drums.
Vaisakhi celebrates the 1699 founding of Khalsa, a Sikh military order created to stop Hindu and Sikh Punjabis from being forcibly converted to Islam.
Vancouver’s South Asian community serves as an example of multicultural harmony. Festival perfection delivered with nary a grump, welcoming acceptance, staggering offers of free curries, pakoras and chai tea. Notes had a happy day.
We stumbled upon this annual festival a few years ago; it remains on our must do list ever since. Vancouver puts the “multi” in “cultural”, almost half the residents don’t have English as a first language. At Vaisakhi, a smile is the common language. I can’t quite put my finger on it but for some reason Vaisakhi is able to celebrate a deeply religious, significant observance in a welcoming, positive way. Nothing is for sale – home after home along the parade route sets out tables offering everything from chai tea and pakoras to curries and sweets. With tireless smiles upwards of 100,000 people are treated with the same respect.
Dance as Bhangra music pulls you to a stage, marvel while flowers fall from airplanes, soak up the history and ceremony as the parade passes by. Ponder an afternoon where no matter who you are, you’re welcomed – no strings attached.