We started this blog a little over a year ago, and it’s time to take stock. Should it be continued?
Does it meet a need? Does anything need to be changed?
Enough people have visited our Calendar, Twitter and Blog to encourage us to go on. Many thanks for that and I hope you will tell your friends to join us too. Registering to receive notices of new blogs and tweets is especially supportive. Your comments and contributions have been inspiring. Many thanks to all of you who have written and gone along with me to visit churches, temples, mosques and festivals.
Toronto Multicultural Calendar is still a work in progress. It’s also a learning experience. I’ve attended every ethnic festival and cultural event possible. I’ve met some wonderful people, experienced some awe-inspiring performances, and tasted some great food. I’ve seen the reality of a Toronto that has dramatically changed in the last couple of decades. I want to see more.
I’ve learned that not all events are worth going to unless you want to make contact with the culture of the organizers. I’ve never felt any were a waste of time. That’s because I collect business cards and ask a lot of questions. I want to find out about the favourite restaurants of recent immigrants because these are bound to be authentic. I also want to find out about their religious institutions and their festivals.
Festivals at religious buildings like that at St. Mark’s Coptic Church this year can be small but fun. Vendors are usually friendly and happy to chat. At a Ghanaian United Church I once visited, the dancing was so infectious, I found myself dancing too. I really felt welcomed there. But there are some religious festivals where I felt uncomfortable. No one greeted me afterwards. I won’t tell you the bad ones because next year, they might be better.
The ones I especially like, I’ve marked “highly recommended” on my calendar. They are well-organized and usually have performance schedules on their web-sites ahead of time. It’s important to look at the schedule or telephone to confirm that the event is indeed starting at the time advertised. I don’t get to all the events mentioned.
Here are some more tips: not all events start on time. Some of them get cancelled. It’s not my fault. Where I can, I list a phone number or web-site. Please use it. If I tell you that some Filipinos events have been an hour late, they might be on time when you go. Their festivals frequently start with a mass too.
In some places, take your own chair, unless you want to stand up to eat or be forced to pay for restaurant food just to sit down. Taste of the Danforth this year had no chairs beside the stages. Mel Lastman Square has permanent places to sit. It’s cement. So take a rug or pillow to sit on.
Parking can be expensive or difficult to find. Go early if you want to be sure of parking. I try to take the TTC wherever possible but on weekends it can mean time for only one or two festivals. I love Mel Lastman Square because it’s so close to the subway.
Aim for festivals close to your home. You might meet some of your neighbours. At many festivals, you might find yourself among a minority. Your hosts however should be delighted to see your interest in their culture. Prepare a list of questions. Many people are shy talking about themselves but most are happy to tell you about their cultures and customs. How do they celebrate Christmas? Hanukkah? Muslim festivals? Do their children know Swedish or the language of their parents? Were any of their friends affected by the riots in Egypt?
Expect to learn a lot about the world. For me, it’s been a wonderful ride.