Albertan Multiculturalism Celebrations
- Heritage Day
- In 1974, then Alberta Cultural Minister Horst Schmid declared the first Monday in August as Heritage Day. This was made official in the Human Rights, Citizenship, and Multiculturalism Act. Although it is a civic holiday for many other provinces, only Alberta has dedicated the day to a celebration of its multicultural heritage. Heritage Day is a symbol of how important diversity is to Alberta. Communities across the province hold festivals on this day.
- Edmonton Heritage Festival (Heritage Days)
- One of the largest multicultural festivals is the Edmonton Heritage Festival, which is commonly called Heritage Days. It is held in Edmonton’s Hawrelak Park on the August long weekend and celebrates Edmonton’s various ethnic communities. In 2006, there were 58 pavilions, each one run by a different ethnic group. People wear traditional dress, and visitors can sample different types of traditional food. In recent years, between 350,000 and 390,000 people have attended the festival. The Edmonton Food Bank participates in the festival and has collected up to 50,000 kilograms of non-perishable food items.
- 100 Flags International Food Festival
- Grande Prairie also holds a Heritage Day festival called the 100 Flags International Food Festival. There are performances by local people and each has its own unique ethnic flavour. Visitors can also sample food from around the world.
- Vitaemo Festival
- The Vitaemo Festival is sponsored by the Troyanda Society of Ukrainian Culture and Heritage, which serves the Grande Prairie Region. The festival is a celebration of the Ukrainian heritage of the area and includes a Ukrainian dance competition, “Baba’s marketplace,” where traditional food is served, and guest performances by Ukrainian dance and music groups.
- Cariwest is a Caribbean-style festival held every summer in Edmonton’s downtown area. The event includes a parade, a costume extravaganza where people wear elaborate Caribbean outfits, and open air entertainment. The sounds of calypso and steelpan and the smells and tastes of traditional food are everywhere. The festival allows all Edmontonians — not just those from the Caribbean — to enjoy a typical extravaganza.
Carifest is held in Calgary and features a parade, a Taste of Carifest, a church festival, and brown bag lunch events where people eat their lunch while listening to live Caribbean-style entertainment. There is also a sunshine festival featuring entertainment and a wind-up party.
- Greek Festival
- Every yaar in June, the Greek Festival is held in Calgary. Greek-Canadians and other Calgarians join together to eat traditional Greek food, drink wine, and dance. Greek music groups are invited to come to the city and provide the music. The festival is a good way for Greek-Canadians to show their belief in the value of family, friendship, and philoxenia, generosity toward strangers.
- ExpoLatino festivals are held in both Calgary and Edmonton. The Hispanic Arts Society brings together Latino musicians and dancers from countries all across Central and South America for a weekend of music and traditional food.
- Afrikadey is a celebration of African culture held in Calgary. African musicians from Canada and around the world come to perform. Vendors sell African food and crafts.
- Held in Canmore every summer, KaNasie is a music festival showcasing South African music. It is a time for South Africans in Alberta to hear live traditional music and for other Albertans to experience traditional South African culture. Ethnic food is also served and there is a market where South African crafts are sold.
- GolbalFest, held in Calgary, combines an international fireworks competition with a festival celebrating Alberta’s diversity. Over ten pavilions are set up, each one featuring a different ethnic group. Visitors to the festival can sample ethnic food, view traditional costumes, and watch countries from all over the world compete to have the best fireworks show.
- Métis Fest
- Métis Fest is held in Edmonton in November. It showcases the talents of the Métis dancers and fiddlers who are part of the Edmonton Métis Cultural Dance Society.
- La Fête franco-albertaine
- La Fête franco-albertaine is held yearly in July to celebrate Alberta’s Francophone heritage. People from all across the province come to listen to Francophone musicians, dance, play games, and eat francophone food, especially poutine, French fries with cheese sauce or melted cheese curd, gravy, and mayonnaise. The festival is geared to families, and activities and games for children are provided. Every day of the festival ends with a giant campfire.
- Robbie Burns Day
- Robbie Burns Day is observed on January 25, the birthday of the famous and much-loved Scottish poet, Robert Burns. Robbie Burns suppers are traditionally held on or near this day to celebrate Scottish heritage. At the suppers, haggis, a traditional meat dish made of sheep organ meats, is served along with mashed potatoes and turnips. The supper follows a ceremonial order, with the haggis' being brought in to the music of bagpipes. Toasts are made, and Scottish folk songs are sung. In Alberta, many churches, especially Presbyterian churches, community groups, and Rutherford House in Edmonton hold Robbie Burns suppers.
- Tet Nguyen Dan
- Tet Nguyen Dan, commonly known as Tet, is the Vietnamese New Year. It is traditionally held in February and celebrates the beginning of a new lunar year. Tet is a very important festival for Vietnamese people, and families begin to prepare early. They believe that it is important to begin the new year debt free, in a clean house, surrounded by one’s family and friends. On the third day of Tet, families visit the graves of deceased relatives and decorate them with flowers and candles. On this day, many Buddhists go to their pagoda to pray for a good year, while Catholics attend a midnight mass. Food is an important part of the celebration.
Alberta does not celebrate its multicultural heritage only one day of the year. Throughout Alberta and throughout the year, communities put on celebrations. Some of these festivals are multicultural and celebrate many different groups in a region; others are religious or national holidays and others still are simply a celebration of a group’s ethnic heritage. These various celebrations influence Alberta in important ways. They provide opportunities for people of different ethnic groups to experience other people’s cultures, while giving people more opportunities to enjoy themselves. As they experience the cultures, foods, and traditions of others, they also learn to understand the cultural norms of others and to respect them. They are allowed to experience the fun and traditions of all different ethnic groups. Many of these festivals are supported by the Alberta Foundation for the Arts. The multicultural celebrations held in Alberta include: