British Columbia

Vaisakhi parade returns to Kamloops, despite cancellations elsewhere in B.C.

The Sikh Cultural Society in Kamloops will be hosting public Vaisakhi Nagar Kirtan celebrations, including a parade this weekend, while many others across B.C. have been cancelled with COVID-19 restrictions only just lifted.

It comes during a rare year with many overlapping religious celebrations

Kamloops held its first public Vaisakhi parade in 2019, then paused celebrations for two years due to COVID-19. (Submitted/Pav Gill)

The Sikh Cultural Society in Kamloops, B.C., will be hosting public Vaisakhi Nagar Kirtan celebrations, including a parade this weekend, while many others across the province were cancelled with COVID-19 restrictions only just lifted.

The society's Pav Gill told CBC's Daybreak South Thursday that Vaisakhi, a spring harvest festival and new year for people of the Sikh faith, had just begun celebrating with a public parade in Kamloops in 2019. 

After its initial success, the parade was put on hold for the next two years because of the pandemic, he said.

"This year, we weren't too sure with the COVID restrictions if we'd be able to (host the event), but … due to the size of our community, we were able to quickly organize this for the public to attend."

Gill said that with the assistance of the City of Kamloops and the local RCMP, the outdoor parade will begin this Saturday, April 16, at 9 a.m.

He said the society is preparing for over a thousand possible guests, given that many may be traveling from elsewhere in B.C. because their own celebrations have been cancelled.

The Sikh Cultural Society in Kamloops says it expects hundreds of people to gather for this year's Vaisakhi parade — one of only a few public Vaisakhi celebrations to be held in B.C. this year. (Submitted/Pav Gill)

Surrey resident Vimmi Kaur Sidhu told CBC Thursday that she and her family are "super excited" to be travelling nearly four hours to Kamloops from the Lower Mainland this weekend to celebrate, as her father helped organize the event.

Sidhu said it was "amazing" that her two young children can celebrate this year and to "see how communities come together, and to learn about Vaisakhi," after two years of not having the same opportunities.

"Vaisakhi marks … the initiation [of our faith] and the teaching of the 10 gurus," Gill explained. "[It means] carrying on a life full of truthfulness, honest living, remembering and meditating on God and the Almighty and sharing your earnings with others."

Easter, Ramadan and Passover celebrations to overlap this year

Easter, Ramadan and Passover religious celebrations are also overlapping for the first time in more than 30 years.

Rabbi Lynn Greenough, of the Kolot Mayim Reform Temple in Saanich, says, for her, this is a reminder that all religions are similar to each other, and while they may choose different paths, they all aim for one common goal, which is "to be profoundly connected in a relationship with other people, [and] with God … in ways of kindness, compassion, love."

Greenough told CBC's Daybreak South Thursday that she feels the current war in Ukraine, along with conflicts in other parts of the world, have brought new meaning to religious ceremonies this year, in that they've amplified the "human demand that we take care of each other."

"I think the response we're seeing to the war in Ukraine, brings out that relational, religious response that we must do something in the face of such aggression," she said, referring to the many charitable and religious groups that have been making efforts to help Ukrainian refugees.

Greenough said that during this year's Seder, a ritual feast that marks the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Passover, she's asked her community to refrain from celebrating with a meal, and to instead eat at home and come to the Seder afterward with a donation for Ukrainian refugees in the region. 

With files from Adam van der Zwan and Daybreak South

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