Franco-Ontarienne née à Sudbury et ayant grandi à Toronto, je n’ai pris connaissance de la St-Jean qu’une fois jeune adulte. Faut dire que mes parents n’étaient pas très fêtards… Mais une fois partie, j’ai appris à associer la célébration aux bons temps qui roulent. Mon éveil culturel a commencé vers l’âge de 15 ans. J’ai découvert Harmonium, […]
St. Patrick’s Day is March 17, the date of Patrick’s death. While it has come to be a secular celebration of Irish culture and, perhaps, more identified with nationalist and Republican sentiment, it began as a religious feast day. It was an official Protestant holiday in Ireland beginning in 1783. Probably by no coincidence it came during Lent where an exception to the prohibition on celebratory eating and drinking alcohol was welcomed and led to the embrace of St. Patrick’s Day by all. Four Christian denominations observe the holiday: Anglican, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Lutheran.
St. Patrick himself, the patron saint of Ireland, goes back to AD 387-461 and the arrival of Roman Catholic Christianity in Ireland. Then there’s the thing about the snakes but we won’t go there.
Last Wednesday, Canada lost its “national troubadour”, an “icon”, and “one of [its] most prolific and well-known country and folk singers”; a man who ranked 13th in CBC’s The Greatest Canadian list. Stompin’ Tom Connors is credited with writing three hundred songs, many of which are loudly and proudly Canadian. Upon his death, online tributes poured in from the CBC, politicians of all stripes, and even Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s fake Twitter account. NDP Members of Parliament paid tribute to Stompin’ Tom outside the House of Commons with their rendition of “Bud the Spud”. The Globe and Mail suggested that the mainstream media “patronized him as a novelty singer” and questioned whether he was given enough attention during his life. Everyone seemed to have a different story of their experience with Stompin’ Tom, but they were all general positive and “pro-Canadian”.
International Women’s Day is one of the few celebrations observed in Canada that is the product of dissident or reform movements. Its origins go back to 1909 when the American Socialist Party held an event honouring the 1908 garment worker’s strike in New York, where women protested against gruelling working conditions in the city’s factories. The following year there was a women’s conference in Copenhagen and from a motion by two German socialist women, International Women’s Day was declared.
February is Black History month. We’ll help celebrate it with two entries dealing with music inspired and produced by two very different Afro-Canadian communities. The first is from Nova Scotia. You can get directly involved in this one by going to your post office where two stamps issued for Black History Month are on sale. The one I bought features the face of Viola Desmond. If you buy a booklet of ten you get her story. Stranded in New Glasgow in 1946 and waiting for her car to be repaired, Viola went to the movies to pass the time but found that the theatre was segregated. Blacks sat in the balcony. She refused to move from her orchestra seat and was jailed and fined. She appealed and finally, after a decade, won and destroyed Nova Scotia’s segregation laws. Buy the stamps and read the story.
The Underground Railroad was a network of conspirators working to help slaves escape the United States to find refuge in the British Empire and other places where slavery was illegal. In 1850, the United States Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act, which helped slave owners recapture their escaped human “property.” The act put escaped or free Blacks living in non-slave states in danger. Freedom was found through the underground railroad.
Winter. The most Canadian of seasons. Like sunshine in Florida and fog in London, winter defines Canada. From November to February, it blankets the country in snow, ice, wind, rain, grey skies and blistering cold, turning the landscape into a winter wonderland or an icy hell. To help with your winter hibernation, we’ve rounded up a handful of Canadian winter songs that reflect the mood of the season: reflective, melancholy and restless, but also joyful and bursting with frenetic energy. So, settle into a warm corner and listen to the many faces of winter, as interpreted by some of the country’s most beloved musicians. Happy hibernating!
It’s January and the depths of winter most places in the country. I was thinking about winter songs. I was going to mention a few contenders but then I figured I’d cut to the chase as they say. My hands down favourite winter song is a kind of extended groaner of a joke by one of Canada’s iconic poets, Robert W. Service.
“Auld Lang Syne” has aptly been described as the song that nobody knows, although it is universally the song the English-speaking world uses to bid farewell to the old year and to hail the new.
The song nicely combines a note of conviviality with a poignant sense of loss, just the right mood for New Year’s Eve, when our minds hover between regret and anticipation.
The song we sing now is a version of an ancient song reworked by the 18th century Scottish bard Robbie Burns, a song he said “of olden times” which he took down from an old man’s singing and then improved with the words we (try to) sing today.
On a wall in my home is a print by David Blackwood. It features a line of humans dressed in various swaths of fabric, masked and guided by lanterns. It is titled, “Mummers Group at Pound Cove”. It is an eerie picture that conjures up images of medieval, Breughelesque, ceremonies. Mummering goes back to medieval times and, according to some scholars, to the back of beyond. No one really knows for sure. What we do know is that mummering, done by mummers, arrived in what is now Canada with the first English and Irish settlers and remains part of the Christmas tradition in at least Newfoundland and Labrador, although a friend from Prince Edward Island tells me it is still happening there, too.
I grew up in Toronto in a militantly secular Jewish environment. My parents and their friends – comrades, really – were Communists. This meant that they were atheists. It also meant that they were passionately committed to a Jewish culture without religion. Our “temple” was the United Jewish People’s Order hall (UJPO) on Christie Street. It was a cultural Mecca, as it were. It was situated across the street from the park, Christie Pits. In August of 1933 a baseball team of Anglo Saxon Protestants flew a swastika flag – the emblem of the Hitler regime that had recently come to power in Germany.