This month we have two major religious festivals on December 25, Christmas and the beginning of the Jewish Hanukkah.
Christmas December 25 is Toronto’s major festival, a time for gift giving. Most people enjoy the time off from work and traditional Christmas dinners. Some people follow the spirit of Jesus Christ, founder of Christianity, by volunteering to help give a traditional dinner to the homeless. Some deliver gifts to poor families or sing carols at hospitals and markets. Many of us feel extra generous to the unfortunate.
It is customary for our Western Christian churches to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child on December 25 with pageants, special music, and candlelight services. The Eastern Christian churches celebrate Kings’ Day January 6 – the day the Three Wise Men proclaimed that the baby Jesus was indeed the Messiah with a message of love and forgiveness to our world.
In Toronto, work places and clubs have parties which are usually exclusive or extremely expensive so you won’t find them listed here. We promote only events that are free or almost-free and open to the public.
You might consider celebrating Christmas in a church whose traditions are different from your own. Such can be an exercise in broadening your perception of the religion. We have listed a few of our diverse Christian churches here (Chinese, German, Italian and Tamil) but you can find more just by Googling “Welsh church in Toronto” or “Finnish church in Toronto” or whatever. Unfortunately, many church websites are not up to date and you might have to phone for information.
Or you might see a church in your neighbourhood you’ve been curious about. Service times are usually posted outside. Churches do not usually charge admission but pass a plate around for free-will donations.
Our other major event this month is the Jewish Hanukkah (Chanukah) which starts the evening of December 24 and ends the evening of January 1. This celebration commemorates the re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in the second century B.C. and is also known as the Festival of Lights. Each evening of the eight-day event, Jewish families light one more candle in a chanukiah or menorah, eat traditional food, and exchange gifts. For more information about this event, see: http://www.chabad.org/holidays/chanukah/article_cdo/aid/102911/jewish/What-Is-Hanukkah.htm
Christian. Christmas pageant. Christmas at Queen. Saturday December 24. 5pm. “Hope is a Star” led by The Rev. Dr. John Joseph Mastandrea. Live Nativity on its steps with live animals. Metropolitan United Church, 56 Queen Street East. http://www.metunited.org/jmv4/index.php/events/eventdetail/5286/christmas-at-queen.
Christian. Dramatization of the Christmas Story. Thursday, December 22. 7:30pm; December 23. 7:30pm; December 24. 1:30pm and 4:30pm. Church of the Holy Trinity, 10 Trinity Square (next to Eaton Centre). Suggested donation $20.
Christian. Bethlehem on Yonge. December 24. 4pm. Live Nativity with animals, outdoors in the Park followed by hot chocolate and carol singing indoors with the Minster Singers. Westminster Baptist Church, 1585 Yonge Street. Website: http://www.yorkminsterpark.com/gather/news-events.php
Christian. Germany. Services. December 24. 5pm. Heiligabend (German worship with Communion); 7pm. Candlelight Christmas Eve English Holy Communion; Christmas Day 10am Breakfast; 11:15am Christmas Bilingual Holy Communion. First Evangelical Lutheran Church, 116 Bond Street. Firstelc.ca.
Christian. Italy. Christmas Services. La Vigilia del Santo Natale. Saturday, December 24. 8:30pm. Christmas Prelude (Music & Readings); Mass in English. 9:00pm; Messa Bilingue – Bilingual Mass. 12 midnight; Christmas Day, December 25. 9am. Il Santo Natale, Messa in Italiano; 11:30am. Mass in English 11:30am. St. Francis of Assisi Church, 72 Mansfield Avenue. http://www.stfrancistoronto.org/sfoa_2/?lang=en.
Christian. Tamil. Christmas Service. December 25. 7:30-9am. Tamil Christian Church, 3 Clayton Drive, Markham. http://www.tamilchristianchurch.com.
Jewish. Art Exhibition by Marla Powers. I have Placed my Bow in the Clouds. Now to January 2. Free. Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre, 750 Spadina Avenue. 416-944-8002. http://mnjcc.org/browse-by-interest/arts-culture/visual-arts/gallery/742-i-have-placed-my-bow-in-the-clouds.
Jewish. Hanukkah (Chanukah). Lighting of Minorah. December 27. 3:30pm. Garnet A. Williams Community Centre, 501 Clark Avenue, Thornhill. https://www.vaughan.ca/events/General%20Documents/2016%20Festive%20Celebrations/Menorah%20Lighting%20invite%202016.pdf
Jewish. Hanukkah (Chanukah) Lighting of Minorah. December 25. 8-9pm. “Join us for a Giant Menorah Lighting with our Dignitaries. There will be live music, hot latkes and doughnuts, an amazing Fire show and Chanukah Gelt. Come with the Family!” Mel Lastman Square, 5100 Yonge Street. http://toronto.carpediem.cd/events/2024460-public-menorah-lighting-at-mel-lastman-square/
Jewish. Shir Libeynu Chanukah Family Event. December 26. 4pm. Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre, 750 Spadina Avenue. http://shirlibeynu.ca/th_event/shir-libeynu-chanukah-family-event/.
Our blog as a Gentile at my first Shir Libeynu Chanukah event: https://www.torontomulticulturalcalendar.com/2011/12/23/210-a-report-on-a-hanukkah-festival-of-lights-celebration/
Muslim. Sufi. Regular gathering every Saturday evening. 7:30pm. 270 Birmingham St. http://www.jerrahi.ca/index.html.
Now that I’ve heard some non-Christians saying it’s okay to wish everyone a “Merry Christmas” rather than the secular “Happy Holiday”, let me sign off with my hope that all of is continue to keep Toronto peacefully multicultural, now and forever. Ruth.