The people of Morocco celebrate Baisakhi

Every April millions of Sikhs around the world celebrate Vaisakhi Day, a day that marks both the New Year and the anniversary of one of Sikhism's most important events, the establishment of Khalsa in 1699 with the first Amrit ceremony.

Vancouverites have two Vaisakhi Parades to choose from in the Lower Mainland: the Vancouver Vaisakhi Parade, which draws approximately 50,000 spectators, and the Surrey Vaisakhi Parade and Celebrations, which attracts 300,000 spectators, making it one of the largest Vaisakhi parades outside India.

Also, some locals may not be aware that the Vancouver Metro area also has one of the largest Sikh populations outside of India and the largest Sikh community in the country. In Surrey, most of the city's Asian population are Sikhs, and one of the largest and oldest gurdwaras (Sikh temples) in North America can also be found here.

Vaisakhi day in Sikhism and Hinduism

In 1699 the 10th Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh, formed the Khalsa Panth of warriors to defend religious freedom, the birth of the Khalsa way of living in the Sikh religion. This new type of panth of Sikhism was a crucial turning point in the religion that is celebrated every year during Vaisakhi.

Traditionally, Vaisakhi in Hinduism also marks the beginning of the Sun New Year and is a celebration of the spring harvest. Although there are many names-which vary by region and include names like Baisakhi, Vaishakhi, and Vasakhi-the holiday is usually known to be celebrated in the same way wherever you go.

During Vaisakhi celebrations, the Sikh temples are typically set up for the holiday and Sikhs are bathed in local lakes and rivers in honor of the sanctity of the rivers in SIHK culture before they attend the gurdwaras heading to kirtans. Also, people often gather together to chat and share traditional food.

Similarly, for the Hindu festival of the Vaisakhi holiday, you can expect to find harvest festivals, bathing in sacred rivers, visiting temples, and meeting friends and family to celebrate food and good company.

British Columbia is home to a large Sikh population, giving visitors many opportunities to experience family-friendly activities and get a glimpse of another culture through a colorful day of music, dancing, and sharing food with friends and family.

Parades and celebrations in Vancouver and Surrey

In Canada, the lively parades tend to be live music and free food lovingly prepared by the local community - from businesses to individuals. Festive events are also attended by locals and visitors alike, so it is best to plan ahead and try to reach the parades via transit if possible, as parking may be limited and roads may be closed for the events.

Vaisakhi Day falls on Sunday, April 14, 2019, and the festivals and parades in Vancouver and Surrey will spread over the following week. It is usually celebrated on April 13th or 14th, with local celebrations in Vancouver and Surrey happening on the Saturday before and after the official day.

East Vancouver is the heart of the Vancouver Sikh community and the Vancouver Vaisakhi Parade kicks off at 11 a.m. on Saturday April 13, 2019 at Ross Street Temple. The parade then moves south on Ross Street SE Marine Drive, west to Main Street, north to 49th Avenue, east to Fraser Street, south to 57th Avenue, east to Ross Street, and finally back up to the Temple Ross Street.

The Surrey Parade starts laying on Saturday the following weekend, April 20, 2019, and it starts at the Gurdwara Dashmesh Darbar Temple in Surrey. Just like the Vancouver Vaisakhi Parade, the best way to get to Surrey Parade is by public transportation or go early if you plan on driving there. In addition to the parade and procession, Nagar Kirtan anthems and floats, there will be free food (graciously prepared by local residents and businesses), live music and rides, and several politicians will work the crowds at the Surrey Festival.

For safety reasons, helium balloons and drones are not allowed at the festival as they can disrupt air traffic.

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