Interfaith-Faith: A Conversation on Christmas in Canada

It was about mid-November when I sat down to plan out a one-hour program for Radio Regent, the topic of which was to involve religion in some capacity. With the sensory rush of the holidays just gearing up and the airwaves (and internet) beginning to buzz with the annual "war on Christmas" debate, it seemed appropriate to consider just what "Christmas" means in today's Canada.
 
Although North American Christmas has been an ostensibly Christian holiday, many Canadians - even those who have been in Canada for generations - are not devout Christians, or Christians at all. So what do we do with a holiday that has "Christ" in its very name, and supposedly celebrates the birth of Jesus? Specifically, what do young Canadians who don't identify as Christians do when Christmas rolls around?     
 
I sent out a couple of feelers to religious leaders in the local community, hoping for a response. Only two people responded: Noam Sienna, a Jewish Master's student from the University of Toronto's Department for the Study of Religion; and Justin Trottier, producer and host of Think Again! TV, board member of the Canadian Secular Alliance, and an atheist working at the Centre for Inquiry on College Street. 
 
The star interviewer was to be college student Corinna Richard, a youth volunteer at Regent Park Focus Youth. Only the interview with Noam took place on-site at the Media Arts Centre's studio; Corinna went "into the field" to conduct the interview with Justin at the Centre for Inquiry. It was a frigid December afternoon when Noam arrived at the studio, read for his radio interview. To his surprise, he was offered an opportunity to be on local TV, too - Adonis saw the opportunity to record Noam and Corinna having more general conversation about Judaism. Armed with only a rough outline of a script, Corinna rose to the occasion. 
 
Before they knew it, Noam and Corinna were sitting in front of the studio's bright purple backdrop, facing lights and cameras. Under Adonis's direction, the recording began: Corinna asked simple, thoughtful questions about Noam's family (his mother is a rabbi), his holiday traditions (did you know that Chanukah was very early this year, and long over by Christmas season?), and his thoughts on being surrounded by Christmas stuff while not celebrating the holiday himself (he would rather that people wish him a Merry Christmas, if only so that he can then thank them before explaining how he doesn't celebrate it).
 
Because of the spontaneity of the proceedings, Corinna actually seemed to learn a great deal about Noam's culture, religion, family, and personality under the watchful eyes of two cameras. Noam may not have spoken for all Jewish people, but Corinna did learn the perspective of one young Jewish Canadian. There was no need for fake inquisitive looks or thoughtful expressions - it was a real-life exchange...that just happened to be caught on camera."  
 
Best wishes for 2014,
 
Helen

(Inter-faith Dialogues TV was sponsored in part by the Inspirit Foundation).

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