Islanders celebrate Vaisakhi, Ramadan for second year in pandemic

Islanders celebrate Vaisakhi, Ramadan for second year in pandemic
WatchFor three different faiths, today is an important celebration. Sikhs and Hindus are celebrating Vaisakhi and it's the first day of ramadan for the Muslim community. Their celebrations may look different this year, but they're still finding ways to connect.

Instead of holding parades, gatherings and breaking fast together, the communities are finding creative ways to celebrate instead.

“Typically Vaisakhi is celebrated with large religious processions called Nagar Kirtans,” said Jindi Singh, national director of Khalsa Aid Canada. “But obviously with the pandemic it’s hard for us to gather and celebrate.”

For some of the Island’s Sikh community, that means giving back to those in need. Khalsa Aid, in the spirit of Vaisakhi, gave out care packages and hosted a pizza luncheon at Mustard Seed Church and Food Bank.

“We’re taking the spirit of Vaisakhi and sharing it with the world,” Singh said.

The Khalsa Aid volunteers are putting their faith to practice by doing “Seva,” a spiritual practice of selflessly serving others without expecting anything in return.

“Even during our big Vaisakhi parade, Seva is a big thing there — helping others, handing out food — just out of celebration,” said Ominder Dhanota, a 19-year-old volunteer with the organization. “If we can do that here today for the less fortunate, then it’s just another way for us to celebrate.”

READ MORE: Loud and bright: Victoria celebrates Vaisakhi for the first time in 100 years

Meanwhile, for members of the Victoria Hindu Temple, Vaisakhi is a harvest festival marking the start of the solar new year.

“It is celebrated all over India and all over the world,” said Sridevi Ganti. “We are all celebrating new beginnings, new year, with new hope.”

Sharing food from the harvest is an important way to celebrate the occasion, but with the pandemic, the community can’t get together and do that. Instead, Ganti says they will get together with their friends and family virtually, over Zoom.

“We can connect with them, wish them happy Vaisakhi, wish them happy new year,” she said. “Even though we may not be physically connected, we want to connect with them spiritually.”

Ganti says people can still share in other festivities over video call, such as singing and dancing.

READ MORE: Social gatherings and congregational prayers cancelled during Ramadan

Over at Masjid Al-Iman, the first day of Ramadan is being celebrated.

“Ramadan teaches us many different things, such as self-control [and] empathy,” said Imam Ismail Mohamed Nur. “When we fast, it makes us appreciate the many blessings that we might take for granted otherwise.”

In pre-pandemic times, the mosque is usually packed during Ramadan, as hundreds of families come together to break fast and pray.

“Now, given the circumstances, we are down to 55 families,” said Nur. “We’ve prepacked the meals and we give it to them.”

All three faiths are finding ways to celebrate and connect spiritually, even when gatherings aren’t allowed. Ganti hopes next year is different, as the vaccine rollout continues.

“Next year we will do it better than ever before, so please hang in there and stay safe,” she said. “We will all get together in a huge celebration next year.”

Sikh, Hindu and Muslim communities on the Island are celebrating Vaisakhi and Ramadan differently in 2021 as pandemic restrictions continue for the second year. (Jasmine Bala/CHEK News)

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Jasmine BalaJasmine Bala

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