2015 Surrey Vaisakhi – Black and White

Last Saturday’s Vaisakhi celebration in Vancouver might be considered a warm-up for today’s festival in Surrey. Work dictated I preside over brunch, leaving my husband to capture some of the estimated 250,000 participants in black and white.


Vancouver Vaisakhi 2015

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.

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Vancouver Vaisakhi 2014

Vaisakhi is an annual festival celebrated by Sikhs. Part harvest or “thanksgiving”, part commemoration for founding of Khalsa in 1699 by Guru Gobind Singh, 10th Guru of the Sikhs. Khalsa represents code of conduct and commitment to the faith – once baptized, members adhere to the five K’s.  Kesh – uncut hair, Kanga – wooden comb, Kara – iron bracelet, Kacchera – specific cotton underwear and Kirpan – dagger or sword. Symbols identifying their commitment to uphold Sikh ideals of honesty, equality, fidelity, meditation on God, not bowing to tyranny and protecting the weak. Sikhs are forbidden to dishonour their hair, eat meat slaughtered in the Muslim way, cohabitate with anyone other than their souse or use tobacco. The following link gives a more detailed history.


Vancouver has one of the largest Sikh populations outside India. Vaisakhi celebrations in British Columbia take place over two consecutive weekends. Today marked the Vancouver parade, next Saturday Surrey holds an even larger celebration. Work permitting we never miss an opportunity to walk the parade route.

Vaisakhi makes everyone feel welcome. It doesn’t matter if you understand the nuances, speak the language or know Sikh history. Music and laughter fill the air, warm smiles extend past religious and cultural borders. Vaisakhi lifts spirits while serving as ambassador to the true meaning of multiculturalism.

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Vancouver Vaisakhi

Tomorrow brings Vancouver’s annual Vaisakhi parade. Vaisakhi celebrates the birth of Khalsa and the Sikh religion, as well as the start of harvest in the Punjab. A simplistic description if ever there was one, I’m no expert on the Sikh faith. I do appreciate a good festival though, and this one is a keeper.



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.