What is the spirit of Christmas in the Beach? The spirit is the people of the Beach and East End, who contribute to helping their fellow citizens, especially at this time of year. When we celebrate Christmas, we celebrate what Christ did: help the people of the world, especially the poor and unfortunate.
Helping people at this time of year is not limited by religion or nationality. Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Protestants – all religions band together for one common purpose in the Beach. In Kew Gardens, we lit the Christmas trees. Just to the west, we lit the menorah. These two religions live in peace, side by side, helping others – goodwill knows no religion.
In the Beach the true spirit of charity and giving began over 160 years ago at St. John’s Berkeley (later known as St. John the Baptist, Norway), where Christmas was celebrated with carolling, goodwill and charity. Later, the Christmas spirit was expanded by Rev. Baynes-Reed, who did so much to help the downtrodden, especially during the holiday season.
Some people have asked, what do I do to help at Christmas? I have helped deliver Star Santa Claus boxes to those who are less fortunate for 33 years. I have helped Community Centre 55 with their hampers for hundreds of families for 30 years. I help with the Beach Interfaith lunches. These good works could not have been done without my lovely and charitable wife Patricia, who has been the backbone of the family, especially at Christmas. I wouldn’t have done anything if it were not for my family and friends – they are the spirit of the Beach.
Last month we had a Christmas Parade on Kingston Road to bring goodwill and joy to the people of the Beach, and also to raise awareness of those who need help. That help is given through the good work of Centre 55, which gives fresh and canned food, and toys, to hundreds of families in the East End – and this is carried out by the people of the Beach in the Christmas spirit.
Nearly 100 years ago a similar parade was held in the East End, along the Danforth and down to Queen, with the same objective of helping the poor.
The spirit of the Beach is alive at Kingston Road United Church, where concerts, bazaars and festivities were run by Rev. Ted Davey for many years. The St. Aidan’s Anglican Church congregation, started 120 years ago by Rev. Dixon, help the neighbourhood at Christmas and all year round, through meals, programs for the homeless and other actions. The two Catholic churches, St. John’s and Corpus Christi, are guided by two priests with big hearts. Father Sam and Father John help their parishioners and neighbours, regardless of religion. Again, the spirit of the Beach.
Of course the holidays don’t have to be solely Christian. Take Arie Nerman, president emeritus of the Beach Hebrew Institute. He and the congregation have helped their less fortunate Beachers for many years. They also exemplify the spirit of the Beach.
David Breech and his Scouts, along with the Salvation Army Band, bring joy and happiness through Carolling in the Park, held in the Glen Stewart ravine – the spirit of the Beach.
How many people that have written and promised to help the people of the Beach in one form or another, only saying things for their own personal gain? Take, for example, people who ran for public office and promised the world to the people of the Beach. I’ve seen and known them for the past 40 years, and they number in the hundreds, but when the election or other issues are finished, they dwindle like snowflakes in spring.
This is not to say that there are not people who help out at Christmastime, and put their hearts in it, but the vast majority don’t appear except during elections or at public events where they can be seen by the media. It would be a far better world if these individuals helped their fellow citizens not only at Christmas, but all year.
Over the past, thousands and thousands of people have helped out their neighbours, and these people will always be remembered by those that were helped, and the organizations and places of worship of the Beach. Merry Christmas to all of the people of the Beach.