Vaisakhi is both a religious and cultural holiday celebrated by two different south Asian groups every year in mid-April.
Sikhs in South Jersey celebrated the holiday, which fell on Monday this year, as both a harvest festival as well as the founding day for their religion.
It is often celebrated in temples as well as within the communities in the northern Indian state of Punjab with songs, dances and lots of food.
Harleen Kaur, 11, of Vineland, said she likes celebrating the occasion because it is a reminder of her roots.
Though it is a festival she has celebrated since she was born, Kaur first realized she had a different cultural heritage than her schoolmates in kindergarten, when no one else knew what Vaisakhi was.
“It made me feel special because I was the only one to celebrate it,” Kaur said. Later on though, as she grew older, she was less vocal about the celebration.
“It felt weird that everyone else had something in common and I didn’t,” Kaur said.
Kaur, along with a few other children and teens learn a lot about their culture and religion at the Sikh temple in Vineland. One skill Kaur has developed is being able to play the harmonium. The instrument is a combination of a mini organ and accordion which is a main component to traditional music in northern India.
“I feel relaxed when I’m playing,” Kaur said.
Bangladeshis and Benglais also celebrate Vaisakhi, which signifies the start of a new year.
Bangladeshis call the day Boisakhi, and also celebrate with food, dance and music. Boisakh is the first month of the Bengali calendar and so the first day, or new year, is Pohela Boisakh (first of the month).
The Bangladeshis in South Jersey celebrated Monday night with dances at a hotel in Egg Harbor Township, though celebrations in their home country began at the break of dawn.
They recreated a mini bazar with traditional foods and clothes on sale in the tennis complex at the Howard Johnson in West Atlantic City.
Many of the children participated in dances and a fashion show- showing off their culture.
Aritra Chowdhury, 12, of Atlantic City said he enjoys the celebration because its a time to meet up with his cousins and spend time with family.
Ahsanul Kabir, of Atlantic City, said he likes having the celebrations each year so that his toddler son is exposed to the culture even though he is growing up in South Jersey.
Atlantic City mayor Don Guardian stopped by briefly during the night.
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