Traditional celebration makes newcomers feel at home

·2 min read

Celebrating a local festival two days after moving to Canada is helping an international student feel at home.

Over the weekend, the Timmins Ontario Malayalee Association celebrated its biggest ever Onam, an Indian cultural festival. Organizers said about 150 people — most in traditional attire — attended the event held at a local church.

"I came just two days ago to Canada from India. I never thought I would be able to celebrate Onam in Timmins," said Martin Antony, an international student at Northern College.

He was aware that people celebrate Onam in bigger cities like Toronto but never expected one locally.

Onam is the biggest harvest festival in the south Indian state of Kerala. The annual celebration is usually celebrated over 10 days. Keralites elsewhere celebrate Onam in memory of the mythical king of Kerala—- Mahabali.

With a vast flower carpet, a feast of more than 20 items, and traditional dancing called Thiruvathira, the event is the biggest so far, said the organizers.

"We could not make it exactly like how we celebrate in Kerala. But we tried to celebrate this Onam at best," said Tom Antony, one of the organizers.

He is happy that many newcomers attended the event.

"We want to showcase our distinctive cultural values to the local people," he added.

The event started by lighting the lamp and praying. Then, singing and dancing were performed by both men and women. Tug-of-war was also one of the highlights of the day.

"This festival reminds us all of the importance of sharing. Also, the good governance of king Mahabali. So we want to share the good values that we learned from our tradition," said Shine Johnson, one of the community's leading members.

Johnson said it's a memorable day for the community.

"We have celebrated Onam in Timmins before, but this time, it is more organized, and more people are in attendance. I am happy that both our existing and new members enjoyed the event," said Johnson.

While the Timmins Ontario Malayalee Association recently held a general meeting, it has not yet elected a board of directors. Johnson said he is hopeful that the community can be organized shortly and will work for the betterment of the community.

Johnson also said the organization would make some crucial improvements soon.

For the Onam celebration, the Timmins Economic Development Corporation (TEDC) financially helped the association.

"It helped us a lot since most of our members are students. But the energy of the youth is our power. We are now committed to giving back to the local community whatever the little things we can," he said.

Jinsh Rayaroth, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TimminsToday.com