Jewish Religious Holiday

Jewish Religious Holiday

Question: Is it appropriate that statutory holidays like Easter and Christmas celebrate events in the Christian calendar?

Rabbi REUVEN BULKA is head of Congregation Machzikei Hadas in Ottawa and host of Sunday night with Rabbi Bulka on 580 CFRA.

It is probably accurate to say that no one would have asked this question a few decades ago. Not everyone then, or now, celebrated Easter or Christmas, but everyone took off on those days. It was entrenched into the Canadian reality.

For many, these days continue to have religious significance far beyond what we associate with a statutory holiday. But due to the changing demographics in Canada, and perhaps also due to a weakening of the ties with institutional religion, these numbers are certainly not increasing.

Added to this is the apparent discomfort that people at all age levels seem to have with Easter and more likely Christmas. This is most significant in the public schools, wherein “non-observers” of Christmas are allegedly made to feel uncomfortable.

Having said all this, I must admit to feeling uncomfortable about feeling uncomfortable. Canada is what it is thanks to our founding fathers and mothers. Whatever they were, and whatever foundation they established, the fact that we are here and thriving means they did a pretty good job. We should be grateful rather than uncomfortable.

We should take great joy in seeing people of other faiths expressing that faith. Adding new realities to our country should never come at the expense of removing the old realities.

I have confidence that teachers in schools will find a way to address the discomforts of those who do not celebrate Christmas or Easter. Surely they should not be forced to celebrate what is not part of their religious idiom. But that is a far cry from allowing uneasiness about certain statutory holidays to warrant removing those days and readjusting the calendar.

To address your question more bluntly, it would be highly inappropriate, even unfair, unwise, and disrespectful, to uproot what has become a well-entrenched Canadian tradition.

Parenthetically, the Jewish community, now very comfortable in Canada, was not as welcome decades ago, and faced the challenges of a Christian society, by maintaining identity and blending in, all at the same time.

There were difficult times, but changing Canada was never part of the equation, and should not be now, no matter the new demographics.

Jewish Religious Holiday

Religious Opinion

Return from Jewish Religious Holiday to home page