The holidays are upon us, which means it is time to be with friends, indulge in your favorite treats, and take a spiritual inventory. After all, the holidays are typically about much more than just good food and good company — they are about the fundamental beliefs to which each one of us ascribes. Importantly, the holidays are about being kind to one another, despite a potential difference in values.
Canadians are incredibly diverse, and during the holiday season, families from coast to coast participate in different religious traditions. During this peaceful time more than any other, it is important to learn more about the major religions represented in Canada and to appreciate the diversity as it aids understanding and joy.
Visiting and Remembering
Niagara Falls celebrates the diversity of religions in Canada with its annual Winter Festival of Lights. Throughout the Niagara Parks, the festival proudly displays tributes to the Canada’s major religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. When you travel to Niagara Falls this winter, observe the interconnectedness of these religions in the parks and consider how crucial we all are to making the world an interesting and functioning place.
Jews are a remarkably small percentage of the Canadian population, totaling only about 1.1 percent, but their existence in Canada has been long and storied. Coming over with settlers of other faiths during the first colonization of the country, Jews have been practicing their beliefs in these lands for centuries, increasing their numbers whenever difficulties in their Eastern European homelands became untenable.
During December, Jews celebrate Hanukkah, which in Hebrew means “dedication.” On each of the eight nights of the holiday, Jewish people celebrate by lighting a candle on their menorah to commemorate their ancestors’ patience and devotion to their beliefs. Feasts and gift-giving often accompany the ritual.
Roughly two-thirds of Canadians identify as Christian, including both Catholic and Protestant groups. This means that Christianity continues to have monumental influence over Canadian culture in myriad ways. Beautiful and historic churches define the skyline of many old Canadian cities, making the dominant religion in the country an obvious and stunning addition to the Canadian landscape.
It is unlikely anyone is unaware of the important Christian holiday of the season: Christmas. Rejoicing in the birth of the baby Jesus and the impending flight of Santa Claus, Christians celebrate their winter celebration with gift-giving and by spending time with family.
Islam continues to gain followers throughout the world, and is currently the second most-represented religion in Canada, with almost 3.2 percent practicing Muslims. Islam is truly a religion of acceptance, as it incorporates the beliefs of both Judaism and Christianity.
Many Muslims do celebrate Christmas to some degree. Muslims technically only celebrate two major holidays a year, neither of which are celebrated in late December. Still, a handful of important days of note, including Mawlid, the birth of the prophet, occur throughout winter, fostering good spirits among Muslims.
A recent review has shown that more and more Canadians belong to “minority faiths.” These religions, including Hinduism, Sikhism, and Buddhism, are gaining more representation in the country largely because of the numbers of immigrants flocking to a land of promise. In addition to this, Canadian natives continue to practice their traditional religions alongside modern ones; the Inuit combine their Sinck Tuck celebrations with Christmas feasts and gift-giving.
Additionally, those who don’t to identify with any religion has seen a steep rise in percentage of the population; in fact, this group in particular is the second most numerous in the country, after Christians, with almost 24 percent claiming no affiliation.
Each and every Canadian has something to celebrate during the holidays, whether it is Christmas or fascinating Sinck Tuck. It is important to recognize similarities as well as differences during this festive time and rejoice in every aspect of human existence.
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