And why not Christmas trees?

(Canscene) — I arrived in Canada 59 years ago, just ten days before Christmas. England, like the rest of Europe, was still suffering from austerity measures, demanding conservation of electricity and continued rationing of fuel, food and clothing.

After disembarking at Halifax, there was little time for a meal before I entrained, but it was a treat to be able to gaze at the menu at the Nova Scotian Hotel coffee shop. I chose a plate of cold ham and sliced tomatoes and in my mind’s palate can taste it yet.

As the train from Halifax to Montreal sped through the gathering night, we passed towns and villages where Christmas lights were beginning to be switched on. Montreal, where I changed trains for Toronto, was ablaze with Christmas colour.

Arriving in Toronto on December 17, I ran head on into a wonderland: the gaily bedecked windows of Simpson’s and Eaton’s, the outpouring of Bing’s White Christmas from speakers mounted above the doors of even the most humble retail businesses, the geniality of people on the streets from whom I asked directions. And there were Christmas trees by the thousands.

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I’ve celebrated many enjoyable Christmas holidays, but none more memorable that that first one where, on Christmas Day, I was welcomed into the home of a stranger and one week later to a New Year’s celebration in another town. Like many others, I have become jaundiced about the “commercialization” of Christmas. but at the same time cannot shuck off the feeling of that first Christmas in Canada.

Through the years, we Canadians, once citizens of a predominantly Christian nation have become culturally sensitive to the fact that throughout the year there are other celebrations being observed that need to be acknowledged. And rightly so. I firmly believe multiculturalism means more than tolerance and “live and let live.” We need to accept, understand and respect these celebrations. The more we know them the more we should be ready to accept them as a fundamental Canadian right.

However, many over-anxious Christians through an overdosed sense of guilt, become all too ready to discard Christmas trees. I refuse to throw the baby out with the bathwater of political correctness. The Christmas tree in my home is small and fireproof but to me it stands as tall as those that still grace city squares and building lobbies.

So, Happy Eid, Diwali, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Chinese New Year and to all participants in all other festivals. In my heart of hearts, I know you don’t begrudge me my Christmas tree.
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