17/01/2017 12:54 AM IST

Listen To Justin Trudeau Speak Tamil To Celebrate Canada's Diversity

“Iniya Pongal Nalvazhthukkal!”

On the same day President-elect Donald Trump criticized civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis and the diverse district he represents, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was celebrating his country’s diversity across the border in Canada.

Trudeau sent holiday greetings on Saturday to people of Tamil heritage around the world observing Thai Pongal, a Hindu harvest festival that originated in southern India.

“We should seize every opportunity to celebrate the many cultures, languages and beliefs that make our country such a wonderful place to live,” Trudeau said in a video posted to Twitter on Jan. 14. 

Trudeau began his message with a traditional Tamil way of saying hello: “Vanakkam.” He ended in Tamil as well, saying, “Iniya Pongal Nalvazhthukkal,” or “sweet Pongal greetings.”

Bloomberg via Getty Images
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent Pongal greetings to Tamil-Canadians on Saturday.

Thai Pongal falls on the first day of the Tamil month “Thai.” The holiday, which is traditionally celebrated over four days, is meant to honor the sun god. As part of the festivities, people will boil milk and newly harvested rice in a clay pot as an offering to the deity.

According to the prime minister, Canada’s House of Commons voted in 2016 to recognize every January as Tamil Heritage Month. Canada is home to close to 200,000 people of Tamil heritage. Many have settled in the suburbs of Toronto.

“I encourage everybody to reflect on the strong heritage of Canada’s Tamil community. Our nation is stronger and richer because of Tamil-Canadians,” Trudeau said.

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