Like most people this time of year, I have had Christmas songs bouncing around in my head for the past several weeks. During one particularly festive onslaught on the radio, I heard “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Although I have heard this song too many times before, this time one of the lyrics stood out to me: “Here we are as in olden days, happy golden days of yore.” This line seemed to capture something about the Christmas season that often goes unappreciated: by upholding Christmas traditions, we have the chance to re-connect with our past.
This idea got me wondering: what was Christmas like in previous generations here in the West? I decided to do some digging into the digital archives. I was delighted to find a few old newspapers that captured a little snapshot of what Christmas was like for our ancestors a hundred years ago.
Long before the modern conveniences of online shopping, minivans, and central heating, Westerners had very few comforts to get them through the harsh winters. Christmas celebrations provided a necessary reprieve from the intensive and sometimes monotonous routines required for winter survival in the Old West.
In 1900, one author from Agassiz, BC wrote in the Outlook, “It is Christmas-time, and sometimes then we take more leisurely count of time.” He described his family’s efforts to make their home cozy for the holiday: “We have built a new house in a clearing in the British Columbia forest and there are open fireplaces; on their brick hearths we burn logs of cedar, of maple, and pine… the logs crackling and flickering.” To mark the season, their family sang Christmas carols together and told stories around the open fire.
In 1929, an article from Red Deer, Alberta described local Christmas traditions. The article explained that the church was the centerpiece for the community, and that they would decorate their church with evergreen branches and the traditional Nativity set pieces. The article said, “The greatest charm of Christmas is the decorated church, the power which makes man see beyond the bare walls of the church and which carries him back through the ages to worship with the shepherds at the manger cot in Bethlehem.”
The 1929 article also reflected on the traditional stories of St. Nicholas coming down the chimney, and joked, “Just fancy the catastrophe that might befall the world if it became the fashion to build houses without chimneys.” If only they could see the jumble of apartments stacked upon apartments in most Canadian cities today, with no sign of a proper fireplace for miles around.
As with today, Christmas in the Old West was also a time for charity. Church groups regularly tapped into the spirit of the season by putting together donation bundles for people in need. An article from 1934 (in the middle of the Great Depression) reported that Winnipeg was a centre for shipping over 7,000 pounds of clothes, toys, and gifts to communities all around southern Manitoba where farming families had been struggling due to drought. After a year of terrible hardship, such donations would no doubt have helped thousands of families to “make Christmas merry” at a time when they may not have believed it was possible.
I found another article from 1930 with the surprising title, “Near Starvation, Farmers Cheerful.” It spoke about how Christmas brought hope to people struggling at the start of the Depression in northern Saskatchewan. Farming families who were often “burdened with big debts due for the payment of agricultural implements and grocery bills” could be found “rallying around the Church and cheerily learning Christmas carols.” Even when people had no money to offer charity, they helped each other out in other ways by milking cows, collecting eggs, and keeping each other company.
Their experiences may serve as an example to those of us today who are also going through hard economic times this Christmas. Westerners have gotten through such times before by relying upon each other, working hard, and looking to our traditions for a sense of purpose and inspiration. And we can do it again.
That’s one of the great things about reading our history. It reminds us that no matter the hardship, we in the West have always found a way to triumph over adversity. I hope this Christmas gives you the chance to spend quality time with your families, to celebrate the foundation of your faith, and to enjoy some great food. But in addition to all that, I hope you also take a moment to remember the “happy golden days of yore.” By celebrating Christmas, we take part in a tradition that connects us from generation to generation and inspires us to press forward “as in olden days.”
Royal Canadian Legion ‘saddened’ over vaccine-related protests
Several vaccine related incidents unfolded on Remembrance Day, including the desecration of a war memorial.
The BC/Yukon Command of the Royal Canadian Legion released a statement regarding vaccine related disruptions that took place during Remembrance Day ceremonies, as well as the desecration of a war memorial.
“We are the keepers of remembrance in Canada. As long as we exist we will uphold the tradition of remembrance to ensure Canada’s fallen will not be forgotten,” said Val MacGregor, President of BC/Yukon Command of the Royal Canadian Legion.
“We are saddened that anyone would feel it necessary to distract from the sacrifice of our veterans and their families with political agendas. Especially, on Remembrance Day.”
In Cranbrook, RCMP were notified that someone defaced the cities Cenotaph mere hours before the Remembrance Day ceremony was set to take place. Spray-painted across the memorial were the words “the real heroes are the vaccinated.”
In Kelowna, police were called to an unofficial Remembrance Day event at City Park where hundreds of people gathered to pay respect to fallen Canadians. Amid the gathering, a small handful of people protesting COVID-19 vaccine related measures set up a microphone and began speaking over attendees.
“Have you forgotten? You have forgotten,” the woman interrupting the ceremony says.
Standing to her left was Bruce Orydzuk, a well known protester in the Kelowna area who went viral in July after berating a security guard at a vaccine clinic.
“I was there with my wife. Veterans were quite upset and a lot of people were screaming at each other. Never thought a remembrance day ceremony would be controversial but here we are. Really sad,” tweeted Matt Glen.
“Not the right time, not the right place,” one man can be heard shouting.
About 166 km away, a similar incident unfolded in Kamloops at the Riverside Park Cenotaph where people had organized their own unofficial ceremony before it was sidelined by anti-mandate protesters.
After going viral, the two latter incidents prompted wide-scale dispute on social media among individuals who would have been fundamentally aligned not so long ago.
Following the provincial declaration of a state of emergency in March 2020, British Columbians have been subjected to 19 months of lock-downs, vaccine passports, and forced business closures. Many live in a state of frustration and rage as a result — thus leading to more forceful behaviour such as what was displayed on Remembrance Day.
“Government breaks soldiers after extracting everything it can out of them. They then leave them with a single day of the year to be acknowledged,” Kip Warner, Executive Director of the Canadian Society for the Advancement of Science in Public Policy (CSASPP) told the Western Standard.
“Protesters have 364 days of the year to protest and be heard. Whether they are protesting COVID-19 related measures, or advocating for them in recently spray painting over a war memorial that the real heroes are the injected, stop doing it. We are Canadians and we should all expect better of ourselves.”
Warner served as an infantry officer in a light infantry regiment part-time for four years while working in tech. He now spearheads CSASPP, a non-profit organization that seeks to reverse COVID-19 related measures in BC. So far CSASPP has raised nearly $150,000 — all of which is regularly audited and available for donors to monitor. No members receive any profit.
The organization’s progress — which has seen three days in court thus far — can be followed here.
While there are a multitude of like-minded individuals across the province working meticulously to combat what they perceive as blatant tyranny on behalf of the state, their endeavour is not simple, and it is frequently sidelined by hot-heads seemingly incapable of reading the room.
“Emotions are one of the main things that derail communication. Once people get upset at one another, rational thinking goes out of the window,” writes former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss in his book Never Split the Difference.
Voss has explained how human beings are influenced by the level of respect they feel they’re given — complying in response to perceived fairness, whilst lashing out at what they feel is unfair.
As for unfairness, veterans living in BC are not allowed to enter fitness facilities, attend sporting events, or even grab a drink at a restaurant if they are unvaccinated — and the Royal Canadian Legion has not condemned the policy. This treatment of not only those who have served, but British Columbians as a whole, provides causal explanation for the lashing out of protesters as of recently — it is human nature, after all.
Capuchin monkeys behave the same way when treated unfairly.
However, what separates human beings from monkeys is the ability feel emotion well up from the carnal abyss, and subsequently detach from it. An understanding that lashing out — although feeling like the right move — may serve no benefit in a specific context.
This can be be observed in the Kelowna example. The outcome of which not only lacked benefit towards the cause protesters claim to be fighting for, but sent potential fence-sitters running the other direction. The scene resembled little difference from a bunch of capuchin monkeys screeching over who gets the banana — all the while those in power swirl their scotch glasses, laughing opportunistically at how they will further exploit the chaos.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn said “a state of war only serves as an excuse for domestic tyranny.”
The narrative peddled from the top down is that Canadians are locked in a deadly war with a virus and therefore sweeping mandates must be implemented for “our safety.” This narrative has driven people into not only accepting, but encouraging the states’ ever tightening grasp. The policies are masked under compassion, but beneath the sheepskin resides an opportunistic snake — and to assume human beings have evolved beyond our proclivity towards consented despotism is detrimentally naive.
Pulling back from the brink requires a methodical approach. Attempting to change one’s beliefs by interrupting and scolding them is like trying to push water uphill, and those who do so fail to recognize how they themselves are contributors to the problem they claim to fight.
WATCH: Calgary psychologist says lockdowns, mandates creating serious mental crisis
From people fearing the collapse of our healthcare system to government mandates, Dr. Angela Grace said it’s an “incredibly stressful time for people” who need to make “very tough decisions.”
A prominent Calgary psychologist said she’s seen an increase in clients coming to her in crisis — especially frontline and healthcare workers — over the last 20 months.
Registered psychologist Dr. Angela Grace shared her perspective on supporting her clients through the COVID-19 pandemic in an exclusive interview with the Western Standard.
Along with providing “trauma work” for first responders in her private practice at Heart Centered Counselling, Grace also offers professional counselling and school assessments for children.
“What I found immediately [when the pandemic began] was an increase in crisis in clients,” said Grace, who explained she was also navigating the complexity of pivoting from in-person to online counselling, while also dealing with the impacts of the pandemic on her children and family.
“What was a seven-out-of-10 crisis before is now a 12 out of 10. What was a client who was doing really really well and hadn’t been to counselling in a while was all of the sudden back in the chair in distress.”
Grace said her clients went from worrying about the pandemic and how life was going to change for them and their families to worrying about decisions around getting the COVID-19 vaccine or not and the bullying and isolation people faced with that “tough decision.”
She said she has also seen an increase in first responders and healthcare workers coming to see her in distress over the fear of losing their careers and livelihoods due to mandatory vaccination policies.
“It’s moving beyond a sense of stress and trauma from the pandemic to now moving into moral injuries,” said Grace.
Medical workers have gone from “being a praised hero” to being “vilified because they don’t want to get the vaccine,” said Grace adding that normal job stressors for these workers have been exaggerated so much more because of these moral injuries.
Grace said the situation created “confusion and mistrust” among healthcare workers and first responders who navigated through the first, second and third waves of the pandemic without being vaccinated but have now been told they can no longer work unless they get the jab.
“Not only is there this divisiveness, but there’s this increasing lack of trust they (medical workers) are going to be taken care of,” said Grace.
According to Grace, children are also being impacted by the pandemic, especially those from divorced homes where parents have differing opinions on issues around how to best protect their children.
Teens “have really been struggling,” said Grace.
“Since the beginning of COVID, there has been a tremendous increase in eating disorders,” said Grace, who explained it’s often a result of an inability to cope and social isolation.
Grace said much of the social anxiety for teens is centred around returning to school after gaps of time when normal socialization was absent.
For younger children, especially those in the formative years, Grace said those learning gaps are leading to children missing out on normal development without the foundation of normal schooling.
From people fearing the collapse of the healthcare system to lockdowns and mandatory vaccination and masking, Grace said it’s an “incredibly stressful time for people” who need to make “very tough decisions.”
Grace said she is also concerned post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) will be a “massive burden” on society in the coming months.
“We are in traumatic stress right now. We have to survive the trauma then the healing can happen,” said Grace.
When asked for her advice to those dealing with heightened anxiety and stress, Grace said the first step is to “acknowledge the stressors and reach out for help.”
“As much as possible, shut off the news, shut off social media and focus on what do I need to do today to look after myself and my family,” said Grace.
Turning to exercise, hobbies, art, games, colouring, pets and mindfulness activities are some other ways Grace suggests people handle feelings of stress, isolation and depression. She also highlighted the importance of “continuing to build connections”, whether by phone or video chats.
“I call it pockets of peace; what are the things you do in your everyday life — every day, every week, every month — routines that give you a sense of peace and calm,” said Grace.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can also be an issue for people through the dark winter months, Grace explained admitting she suffers from the disorder.
According to the Mayo Clinic, SAD is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons. SAD begins in the fall and continues through the winter months leaving those affected feeling tired and moody.
To ward off the effects of SAD, Grace suggests taking Vitamin C, D and Omega fatty acids and eating nutrient-rich foods as well as investing in a SAD lamp and spending 15-20 minutes in front of it daily.
Grace also pointed to the Psychologists’ Association of Alberta website as a referral source for seeking a professional psychologist and recommended their free resources, webinars and tip sheets.
Albertans can access help from the Mental Health Foundation Alberta, the Distress Centre and the Calgary Counselling Centre while the Kids Help Phone and the Canadian Mental Health Association are national support providers.
Melanie Risdon is a reporter with the Western Standard
Elon Musk’s nine must-read books
Musk, co-founder of Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink and The Boring Company, credits his success to reading books.
When Elon Musk tires of the world of AI, solar energy and underground tunnelling beneath Los Angeles, what’s left but to get lost in a good book?
Musk, co-founder of Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink and The Boring Company, credits his success to the printed word, according to an article on blinkist.com
“I read books,” Musk said when asked how he learned to build rockets.
Here are the nine must-read books Musk believes everyone should read:
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
Wikipedia description: “Steve Jobs is the authorized self-titled biography of American business magnate and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. The book was written at the request of Jobs by Walter Isaacson, a former executive at CNN and TIME who has written best-selling biographies of Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein.”
Human Compatible by Stuart Russell
Wikipedia description: “Human Compatible: Artificial Intelligence and the Problem of Control is a 2019 non-fiction book by computer scientist Stuart J. Russell. It asserts that risk to humanity from advanced artificial intelligence (AI) is a serious concern despite the uncertainty surrounding future progress in AI.”
Zero to One by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters
Wikipedia description: “Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future is a 2014 book by the American entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel, co-written with Blake Masters. It is a condensed and updated version of the highly popular set of online notes taken by Masters for the CS183 class on startups, as taught by Thiel at Stanford University in spring 2012.”
Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes & Erik M. Conway
Wikipedia description: “Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming is a 2010 non-fiction book by American historians of science Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway. It identifies parallels between the global warming controversy and earlier controversies over tobacco smoking, acid rain, DDT and a hole in the ozone layer.”
Life 3.0 by Max Tegmark
Wikipedia description: “Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence is a book by Swedish-American cosmologist Max Tegmark from MIT. Life 3.0 discusses Artificial Intelligence and its impact on the future of life on earth and beyond. The book discusses a variety of societal implications, what can be done to maximize the chances of a positive outcome and potential futures for humanity, technology and combinations thereof.”
The Big Picture by Sean M. Carroll
Wikipedia description: “The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself is a non-fiction book by American theoretical physicist Sean M. Carroll, published in 2016. In his fourth book, Carroll defends the argument the universe can be completely interpreted by science, introducing “poetic naturalism” as a philosophy that explains the world.”
Lying by Sam Harris
Wikipedia description: “Lying is a 2011 long-form essay book by American author and neuroscience expert Sam Harris. Harris argues that we can radically simplify our lives and improve society by merely telling the truth in situations where others often lie.”
Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom
Wikipedia description: “Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies is a 2014 book by the Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom from the University of Oxford. It argues if machine brains surpass human brains in general intelligence, then this new super intelligence could replace humans as the dominant life form on Earth. Sufficiently intelligent machines could improve their own capabilities faster than human computer scientists and the outcome could be an existential catastrophe for humans.”
The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
Wikipedia description: “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, generally referred to by its shortened title, The Wealth of Nations, is the magnum opus of the Scottish economist and moral philosopher Adam Smith. First published in 1776, the book offers one of the world’s first collected descriptions of what builds nations’ wealth and is today a fundamental work in classical economics. By reflecting upon the economics at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution”
Melanie Risdon is a reporter with the Western Standard
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