Christmas in Canada

It's that time of year - three days until Christmas.

For a vast majority of people in North America, that means shopping. Many of us are buying last minute gifts for loved ones and friends (or secret Santa work parties). If you live in one of the many Northern communities that dot the landscape above the 50th parallel in Canada, or in one of the thousands of rural communities all over North America, this might mean long drives through the country side to reach the nearest mall or box store complex.

It also means long line-ups, extra crazy traffic at all times of the day, and spending an inordinate amount of money, as well as time with total strangers both in lines and in close proximity in the store isles.

It can all be a little overwhelming.

But I've noticed that over the years, Canada is a relatively calm place to shop compared to, say, the U.S. We are apologizing all the time just for existing in the same space as other people. Although saying 'sorry' to strangers in public is a cultural thing for a lot of Canadians, I think something deeper can happen in our shared public spaces than even at home in our closest relationships: quick forgiveness. For Canadians, I think it is culturally easier for us to show kindness to strangers while being short with our own families. In a sense, we perhaps take out the frustration of the busyness of the season and public life on those who are closest to us.

Yet the fact that we apologize and forgive is one of the things that can make public spaces in Canada pleasant and even safe (in spite of the potential chaos of large crowds). We even apologize for asking people to do their jobs. "Sorry to bother you, but where is electronics?"

This is the Canadian way. We apologize. For Everything.


Canada is more and more post-Christian, yet there are aspects of the Christian faith which are so ingrained into our culture that even if you aren't a Christian in Canada, if you live here long enough you will inevitably pick up on these threads. We apologize, and we forgive in the public sphere with seemingly great ease. Yes it can get a little ridiculous, but the fact is that forgiveness is extremely important for peace and peace is integral to Christianity.

Without even thinking about it, in all of our cultural sorriness, in some way we embody 1 Corinthians 13:4-6 in our public lives. "Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth." By accepting apologies and easily forgiving the cultural transgressions of our neighbors, we show love to our neighbors. I think it has a powerful influence on the way we experience each other.

Simple things like showing kindness to a stranger, and being tenderhearted toward one another is one of the foundations of true Christianity and is also a heightened value during the Christmas season.

Ephesians 4:32 says "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you". As Christmas approaches with increasing speed, let us set our hearts and minds on being kind and tender not just to those we meet outside, but to those on the inside of our lives. 

Christmas is a time of  great joy for followers of Jesus across the world. As we celebrate  the season, may we do so with good will toward all and with the love of Jesus shining through our lives for all to see, and may we extend that love and acceptance especially toward those whose Christmas seasons mark times of increased sadness.

Grace & Peace
Merry Christmas


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