Sikhs help Lindsay celebrate spirit of Christmas
Local business owners, families of Indian religion donate money, food for annual Santa Night event
By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN
LINDSAY – Christmas is a Christian holiday, but the weeks leading up to the day they celebrate the birth of Jesus has also come to symbolize a time of peace and hope for all Americans, regardless of religion. And this year, those practicing the Sikh (pronounced “seek”) religion are taking the lead in supporting goodwill events throughout the country.
The Lindsay Sikh community recently donated $500 to purchase toys for Lindsay’s annual Santa Night, a 25-year-old tradition where more than 1,300 children receive a gift from Santa Claus at the Lindsay Police Department. All of the toys are donated or collected by the Lindsay Police Officers Association. This year’s event will be held on Friday, Dec. 15.
“Everyone wants to see the beautiful smiles on children’s faces when they receive their toy and food,” said Inkonkar Kaur, speaking on behalf of the local Sikhs. “We always want to share happiness with others in our community.”
Raj Singh, owner of Chevron City Food Mart in Lindsay, said there are about five Sikh families that make their home in Lindsay and another five Sikh families who own businesses in town but live elsewhere.
“The Sikh community has always been donating money for the Christmas toy drive and serving food and local parades,” Singh said. “We just made it more public this year.”
Lindsay’s Sikh business owners are also donating food and volunteering to serve it in front of City Hall during the Santa Night event. Known as “langar” or free kitchen in their faith, the Sikhs in Lindsay are providing free cookies, sweet bread, hot chocolate and fruit cider.
“Langar is where food is served 24/7 at the Gurdwara, Sikh worship place,” said Iknonkar Kaur, a member of the Porterville Gurdwara. “Here, everyone sits down together and eat, no matter who you are – rich, poor, whatever caste, gender, religion or color. We are looking forward to getting engaged and to work with the community on initiatives and help out wherever possible.”
Prior to the event will be Lindsay’s Lighted Christmas Parade. Sponsored by the City of Lindsay and Lindsay Chamber of Commerce, the parade begins at 6 p.m. at the Lindsay Memorial Building before heading south on Elmwood Avenue toward City Hall. Parade entries must line up at 5:30 p.m. at Lindsay City Park. Entry deadline is Wednesday, Dec. 13. There is no entry fee but a prize of $250 will be awarded to the best decorated vehicle.
“Sikhs believe in one God and giving back to the community whenever possible,” said Jaskarian Briana, a member of the Lindsay Sikh Community. “It was important for us to choose an event like Christmas because there is no better time to share that belief and celebrate with the community.”
Earlier this year, Valley Sikhs contacted the National Sikh Campaign which made a $10,000 donation to help boost funding for Visalia’s first fireworks show in two years.
The efforts in Lindsay and Tulare County is part of the national “We Are Sikhs” initiative, a new, national effort to improve awareness of Sikhism and Sikh Americans nationally and in local communities throughout the United States.
Sikh is a monotheistic religion that began in India more than 500 years ago. The word ‘Sikh’ in the Punjabi language, from the northern portion of India, means ‘disciple’.
Since May 2017, Gurdwaras, or Sikh worship centers, across the country have been inviting community stakeholders, such as local elected officials, law enforcement officers, school district leaders and others, to participate in special events designed to help inform the community about Sikhism and the many contributions made by Sikh Americans across the country. The Sikh community has been the target of discrimination, intimidation, harassment and hate crimes since the 9/11 attacks because of a collective misunderstanding of what the turban means in the Sikh faith. Sikhs wear the turban to show their willingness to serve others in the community and their commitment to equality for all people. 99% of individuals wearing turbans in the U.S. are Sikh.
Sikh Americans are pillars of their communities in every corner of the nation. They run local businesses, serve on their local Parent Teacher Associations and lead Boy Scout Troops, for example. The American dream is fundamental to the identity of Sikhs in America, and Sikhs believe deeply in the freedom to pursue one’s own success through hard work.
Despite these many contributions, 60% of Americans admit to knowing nothing at all about Sikh Americans, and 66% of Americans have never interacted with a Sikh American. We Are Sikhs has been running national and local television advertisements, digital advertisements, built an innovative web site and participated in community events to educate the public about their faith. To learn more visit www.wearesikhs.org.