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Christmas Giving

I love Christmas, I love everything about Christmas -- the music, the food, the sights and sounds, the spirit, family and friends, the Christmas movies and television specials -- all of it together makes for a wonderful experience.

It is easy to get drawn into the problems of Christmas, even now to the criticism of when we say Seasons Greetings or Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas, because it is a holiday season that encompasses a variety of religious remembrances and events. 

First, it was criticism of not being inclusive, and then it became criticism of being too inclusive.  The truth for me personally, is I say Merry Christmas, and when I say it to a Muslim friend, a Jewish friend, a Sikh friend, or anyone of another religious faith, they generally reply "Merry Christmas to you too."  I find most people are understanding, and  are respectful of each other's traditions.

I'm not trying to belittle anyone else's beliefs, but it is the culture and the tradition that I grew up in coming for an British-Canadian family.  We get invited to events on boxing day, but for us boxing day is also a family day over the holidays, so I generally send my regrets, and get ready to pack on more pounds at another full dinner.

Christmas is a time for many of us when we put aside our differences, and seek the sense of giving and purpose that comes from being magnanimous of spirit.  Many campaigns of giving begin at the start of December, and volunteers commit their time to make a difference in someone's life.

The Salvation Army has its Red Kettle campaigns that goes directly to families in need, and the brass bands playing Christmas carols is a recognizable sound of the season.  Please give often when you see the kettles.

The Food Bank is always seeking donations, but around Christmas, when people are giving to other charitable entities, they can often be forgotten, and in January and February they have to scramble to keep the shelves stocked.  Might I suggest purchasing even a box or case of peanut butter, soup, beans, tuna or other needed products and make a quiet but caring donation to the Food Bank.

Christmas Baskets is a wonderful program where volunteers gather up food and toys, and make them available to families in need.  We have to remember that, while Brantford is predominantly middle class families, there are always people who, through no fault of their own, have fallen on hard times and need a helping hand.  If you have ever delivered a Christmas basket, and I would recommend you attend on December 22nd to help deliver, you will experience seeing the sense of joy and excitement on the face of a child. 

You will also often see a true look of thanks and relief on the faces of the parents, as they can offer their children a positive Christmas experience.

I even know that the Rotary Club of Brantford has gone into the Brantford General Hospital each Christmas and song Christmas carols with the children and those in the hospital during this time.  For many Rotarians it is as much a part of their Christmas tradition as a Christmas tree.

What I am getting at, is that whatever religion you celebrate, whatever traditions you follow, whatever culture you come from, everyone can be involved in charitable giving over Christmas. 

We can bridge differences, put aside politics, ignore rivalries, forget family history, and come together in a sense of peace and joy.  And the best way to experience that sense of peace and joy is through giving to others as a family.

There is still time in the holiday season to honour that sense of giving, and to make a donation of cash, food, toys or volunteer time to make someone else's Christmas bright and cheerful.  I guarantee you that it will make a difference in your heart, and enliven your soul -- and that is a bold statement for a politician.  

One of my favourite Christmas songs is Ray Charles' "The Spirit of Christmas."  You might know it best from the scene in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation when Clark Griswold has locked himself in the attic and is watching old home movies, while dressed in ladies formal winter wear from the 1950's.

Christmas is the time of year
For being with the ones we love
Sharing so much joy and cheer
What a wonderful feelin'
Watching the ones we love
Having so much fun