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December 2003 - Nr. 12

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Letter from the Editor

GS Hospitality Connections

Sybille Forster-Rentmeister  

Dear Reader

I thought for a long while before I decided what I wanted to explore while I am writing to you and could not quite settle on anything. It crossed my mind to write about the Christmas Markets in Canada, especially in our area of Toronto and surrounding cities in southern Ontario and how some of them are not doing so well. But it was not quite right for this time of Advent. I continued to think about the subject and what it meant to us in the past and what it has become in our present times.

When I was still living in Germany and in my parents house we observed the Christian year, which started with the first Advent Sunday. As we know, many of the practises accompanying the period of Advent stem from earlier pagan times and were integrated into the once new religion.

The word Advent is Latin and means Arrival, but we also know it as Beginning and Anticipation. It is this meaning of anticipation that suggests that change is expected; change from the old to something new.

Living in a multi cultural, multi religious country, in times of a fast changing world, it is only natural that the anticipation of the arrival of a saviour has taken on a much broader meaning for anyone that has been exposed to the spectrum of human religious philosophies. In preparation for the arrival of change many religions suggest fasts before the worshippers celebrate their redemption. Body and soul are to be purged of undesirable influences before celebration of new beginnings and hope for a better tomorrow.

The idea of a fresh start is certainly appealing. An opportunity to express wishes for happiness is foremost voiced in the desire for world peace with freedom and integrity for everyone.

I was so much reminded of this concept when I visited a local store and the sales person made a comment about how these items I bought were welcome not only for Christmas but for the celebrations she just went through; and she meant Ramadan. After much fasting there is a celebration and there are sweets in abundance, just like we know it. Not that we fasted a lot during Advent, but we did not really overindulge until Christmas, when abundance was the operative word.

Suddenly, standing in that store with this nice young woman smiling at me and telling me about her celebration I realized how lucky we are to be here. She certainly would not be able to do what she was doing if she lived in Afghanistan. And by the way: USA TODAY had an interesting page on the Net: www.about-islam.org. It is a great page to visit to have some questions on the subject of Islam answered.

Here we are free to practise our convictions openly, can take jobs as we please, move to where ever we want to go to, dress as we like, speak to whomever we wish. We can integrate or segregate, but mostly we tolerate each other’s believe structures, all of which hope for a better future. In anticipation of such improvements we prepare ourselves, perhaps examine what is important to us, and the world we live in before we celebrate that special day of promise, of a new beginning.

Even nature plays along in our parts of the world, at Christmastime the days are becoming longer again. Icy colds purge nature’s growth of parasites and afford a period of rest, only to awake all living things in spring, which will carry forward that message of hope and renewal we have been waiting for.

One of the nicest customs surrounding Advent is found in the Advent Calendar, one like on our front page, or one of the many different varieties that can be found. I always had a nativity scene as a child. There are those that just have a little door to open and a picture can be found, or there are those that have chocolate inside instead of a picture. Another kind, the cloth variety, has pockets and one can put things into it, like notes, chocolates or money. In our house we have played often a game of putting in the day’s change in coins. It is astounding how much money can be gathered in only 24 days.

With the new technologies and the worldwide web there is yet another kind of Advent calendar, the electronic one. Surfing the Net you can find quite a few. I liked www.advent-calendars.com. Check it out. May be it gives you pleasure.

In the meantime I wish you the best of preparation time for this festive season, which has so much to offer. And please, don’t say: It is just all commercial!!!!!!

It is what you make it! Enjoy the sights and smells of the season, and enjoy particularly the sounds.

I hope to see you in Toronto or Kitchener at the Christmas Market!

Until just before Christmas I remain yours truly

Sybille Forster-Rentmeister


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