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Surrey students celebrate Vaisakhi, with a visit from B.C.’s education minister

Panorama Ridge Secondary had displays about the harvest festival, while students performed and acted at DEC
Avneet Aulakh, a Grade 12 student, a Panorama Ridge Secondary, was one of many organizers for the high school’s Vaisakhi celebrations that included information booths about the holiday, which celebrates the harvest festival and the birth of Khalsa. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

Schools across the district held events celebrating Vaisakhi last week, and B.C.’s education minister even visited one high school.

On Thursday (April 14), Panorama Ridge Secondary held its first large-scale Vaisakhi celebration since the pandemic began. Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside, along with new Supt. Mark Pearmain and other local politicians, came out for the event.

Avneet Aulakh, a Grade 12 student, said the students and teachers who organized it “wanted to make it a bit more grander than usual” for the annual celebration of the harvest festival and the birth of Khalsa.

“For me, we’ve done it every year so it’s something that I’m used to but seeing it this big, really does make me happy to be able to share something that’s so important to me.

Inside the school, there were displays with clothing, farming equipment, instruments and marriage ceremony items.

“I think this is one of the first years we’re doing that (educational aspect) as well,” explained Aulakh.

“Usually, we have our performances every year with food stalls and everything, but I think it’s really important to teach people about the culture as well, considering in Surrey it’s South Asian dominated.”

She said some people don’t know what Vaisakhi celebrates, so the displays are “just a way to teach them about it and connect them to their own culture.”

As for displaying the items, and listing their names in both English and Punjabi, Aulakh said it’s about also connecting people to the language.

“Obviously they’ve seen the wedding things and they go to weddings often but all the things you would traditionally use at home like in villages, they haven’t seen those.”

Satvinder Randhawa, a Punjabi 11 teacher at the school, said Vaisakhi is an important celebration for South Asian students to embrace their ancestry, adding the holiday falls during Sikh Heritage Month, according to a release from the district.

“It’s for the students to have a deeper appreciation – ‘This is my cultural background, this is my heritage,’” she said. “It’s a very important day for everybody to connect to their roots and know the meaning behind these traditions, why we carry on these festivities and what they teach us.”

Meantime, the day prior, the Surrey Academy of Innovative Learning hosted students to perform at the District Education Centre for Vaisakhi.

Some students performed a skit explaining the farmers’ protest, while there was also singing, dhol, bhangra and giddha performances. A group of teachers even performed a routine as a surprise.

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The L.A. Matheson giddha team performed at Surrey’s District Education Centre on Wednesday (April 13) as one of many Vaisakhi celebrations across the district. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
The L.A. Matheson giddha team performed at Surrey’s District Education Centre on Wednesday (April 13) as one of many Vaisakhi celebrations across the district. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

Lauren Collins

About the Author: Lauren Collins

I'm a provincial reporter for Black Press Media's national team, after my journalism career took me across B.C. since I was 19 years old.
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