Family, good food and a focus on the less fortunate are threads that run through most holiday traditions.
To celebrate the season, the News took a step back from the everyday reporting bustle and spoke to local public figures about what Christmastime means to them.
“Christmas is very important in my family, but it’s not just about traditions in the faith structure. It’s also about community and inclusion, making sure people aren’t left alone,” said Victoria Coun. Chris Coleman, the son of an Anglican bishop.
“My mother passed away two years ago. She had two rules about Christmas: Family is all important; and the second rule: Everybody’s in the family. You share the joy of the season with family, neighbours and sometimes with strangers who become family members.”
As a board member for CFAX Santas Anonymous, Coleman sees some of Greater Victoria’s neediest families connecting with community support when its most needed. The charity provides gifts to families who otherwise couldn’t afford them, Coleman said, to “make sure kids can go back to school in January with a Christmas story they can share with everybody else, because that’s dignity.”
Diane McNally, a School District 61 trustee, uses winter solstice as an opportunity to reflect on the end of some chapters of life and the beginning of others.
She supports charities like Our Place and the Mustard Seed food bank by working with schools.
“There are lots of school concerts on, where students raise food bank donations for the Mustard Seed,” she said. “I also donate to a local animal group, Dee’s Orphan Kitten Fund, that takes care of feral cats. It’s harder in the cold for everybody.”
Charlayne Thornton-Joe, a third-generation Victoria resident of Chinese descent, said her favourite part of the holiday is her family’s Christmas feast at her father’s house.
“In the past, my husband and I used to look after the Chinese cemetery at Harling Point. We’d stop by on Christmas Day,” she said. “My grandfather is buried there. And my mom was very traditional and into honouring ancestors by visiting the cemetery.”
The biggest celebration of the year for Thornton-Joe and her family will, of course, still be Chinese New Year on Jan. 31.
“I’d like to wish everyone a prosperous year of the horse in 2014,” she said.