Category Archives: Holidays

A Different Kind of Nativity Scene

This afternoon I will be giving a group from my church a tour of the Kent Monkman exhibit Shame and Prejudice at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. One of the installations we will spend time looking at is a nativity scene that is part of an area of the exhibit called The Res House. In one of his lectures Kent Monkman explains how in this artwork he has set the birth of Jesus in a house on one of Canada’s First Nations’ reservations. Kent clearly shows the less than ideal condition of the housing. One of the first things you notice is that the Mary, Joseph and Jesus figures all have the same face and it is the face of artist Kent Monkman.  Kent explains that he was visiting the Natural History Museum in New York when he realized they had used one male face on all the indigenous mannequins in every single diorama, no matter what First Nation they belonged to, or even whether they were male or female.  So Kent thought “well, then I’m just going to put my head on everybody now.”

The baby is lying on a Hudson’s Bay blanket. The arrival of fur trading companies like the Hudson’s Bay in Canada changed the lives of Canada’s indigenous people forever. 

There is Coke in the baby’s bottle.  Could that be because the container of milk on the shelf costs nearly $20 on some reserves? Kent has food on the shelves in the house with their real prices.

In the background you can see a child being taken away to residential school.  Will that be the eventual fate of the new baby? 

There is bottled water in the house- a reference to the fact that there is still a boil water advisory in some Canadian communities and people have to drink bottled water because their water source isn’t clean or safe. 

Joseph is wearing a Chicago Black Hawks jersey and it can start a discussion about how professional sports teams have appropriated indigenous names and symbols.  Kent has replaced the face of the man on the jersey with his alter ego, trickster character Miss Chief who appears in many of Kent’s pieces in the Shame and Prejudice exhibit. 

The Mary figure is holding a rosary in her hand.  Instead of Jesus on the cross, there is a beaver. Beavers with praying hands look heavenward on the top frame of the exhibit which features Latin words that mean Love Conquers All.  

Adoration of the Magi by Jorg Stocker 1510

The placement of this installation is also interesting because just behind it in an adjoining gallery is another nativity scene that is very different from the one Kent has created.  

There are so many details in Kent’s nativity scene to notice and discuss. I think the tour I give my church will be the 15th one of the Monkman exhibit I have led and each time I learn something new from the visitors I show Kent’s work.  I am excited about what the people from my church may find this afternoon. 

Other posts………….

Incarceration

The Scream

Starvation

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Filed under Art, Holidays, winnipeg art gallery

Christmas at New Years

We just wound up our family Christmas on the weekend. Our children and grandchildren came from their home in Saskatoon for three days to join the rest of us here in Winnipeg so our official Christmas was in January. Here are some things that happened.
1. We went sledding at the Forks. 
2. My Dad met his youngest great-granddaughter for the first time.
3. We had our traditional waffle breakfast and ate the better part of a 17-pound turkey.
4. We completed a jigsaw puzzle worked on by three generations.
5. My husband gave our oldest grandson his first chess lessons.
6. We sang carols.

7. My seven-year-old grandson read Margaret Laurence’s The Birthday Christmas Story aloud to us. 
8. Our daughter-in-law made two kinds of delicious homemade soup for one of our meals.

9.  We found out what was in everyone’s stocking. 
10. People read the Christmas memory stories I had written for them. 
11. Many games of crokinole were played on a crokinole board I inherited from my grandparents. 
12. We all shared a highlight from the previous year and one thing we wanted to work on in the coming year. 
13. My husband told his grandchildren lots of stories and I read them lots of stories. 
14. Our grandsons watched their aunt knit. I received a new winter hat she knit for me as a Christmas gift. 
15. We went on a sculpture walk in our neighbourhood and then warmed up at Forth coffeeshop. 
16. Board games and card games were played.  
17. A whole box of Christmas sweets made by my friend Debbie was consumed. 
18. We had fun at the playground behind the Children’s Museum. 
19. We had extended family over for faspa. 
20.  Many memories were made.

Other posts……..

Puzzling- A Family Christmas Tradition

Christmas 2013 is Over

The Nun’s Christmas

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Filed under Family, Holidays

Gifts or No Gifts?

Christmas 2019 with the T-4s

A couple of years ago the group of women I have been getting together with regularly for the last decade explored the possibility of discontinuing the practice of giving one another gifts at Christmas.  It was a very good thing to think about because all too often our homes and lives become so crowded with things there isn’t a whole lot of room, time and space for people and relationships.

Of course, as friends who have cared for and supported one another for years, we definitely knew what was important about our relationship wasn’t the gifts we gave each other but the time we spent together. We decided in the end to continue the tradition of giving each other presents and I have to say I love it.  Not because I need more things. I certainly don’t.  But because of the love and care my friends demonstrate as they select the gifts. 

This year I got a beautiful handmade card from my friend Debbie along with a box full of all kinds of different Christmas treats she had baked herself, including mincemeat tarts with a star design in the crust.  I can hardly wait to share them with my family. 

Esther went to Ten Thousand Villages, a store that sells fair trade items. Your purchase benefits artisans in developing countries who are trying to support their families.  Esther’s package for us included fair trade hot chocolate mix, some pungent and spicy cinnamon sticks to stir the hot chocolate and nuts from South America to nibble on as we did so. 

My friend Glenys had done some research and found out just how many  health benefits there are from having humidifiers in your home and so she had bought one for each of us. The small steamers were inside a lovely piece of glassware.  The gift was good for us and good- looking all at the same time. 

I had bought a book for each of my friends and spent a long time thinking about what would suit each of them.  Unfortunately, I chose a book for one friend that she had already read twice.  She accused me of knowing her reading tastes “too well” but happily traded books with one of the other women. 

It is certainly true people can go overboard with gift-giving and often we do receive things we don’t want or can’t use. I don’t have to get gifts from my friends to know they are my friends, but I have to admit a gift chosen with care by someone with whom you have a meaningful relationship is awfully nice. 

Other posts……….

What’s Happening With Those T-4s?

The T-4s Go Mennonite

Christmas Crafts with the T-4s

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An Eighty Year-Old Christmas Card

One of the things I love about writing this blog is the connections with people it affords me.  Recently I received a card and a letter from a woman who had known my grandparents.  She was going through her belongings and found this charming Christmas card my grandparents had given their friends and family.  It was not dated but from the apparent age of my mother and her siblings, I am assuming it was sent out between 1937 and 1939.  

The name of the woman who sent the card is Agnes Samson. She told me everyone calls her “Bunny” and she is the daughter of my mother’s older cousin Edna Penner. Edna’s mother Katie Ewert and my grandfather Peter Schmidt were brother and sister. Agnes was going through some of her belongings and found this Christmas card my grandparents had sent out in the late 1930s and thought I might like to have it. She got my address from Joanne Ewert another family member who is a musician at my children’s church in Saskatoon and a frequent reader of my blogs. Talk about connections!

The house my grandfather built for his family in Drake Saskatchewan where Agnes went to visit. 

Agnes writes about visiting her grandparents at their home in Drake Saskatchewan called Fairview Farm. It was just down the road from my grandparents’ house and when she was a little girl she loved to walk up to my grandparents’ farm to visit them.  She says everyone loved going to “Uncle Pete’s” and my grandparents’ extended family members were all very close to one another.  Agnes mentions how very fond she was of my mother and my Mom’s two sisters. 

Agnes sent me her phone number and said she would be very happy to meet with me on one of my visits to Saskatoon.  I will have to follow up on that.  

I love how my blog connects me to people in my extended family and helps me to learn more about my grandparents and parents. 

Other posts………

Two Stories About My Grandfather

Thirties Prairie Portraits

My Mom Starts School

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A Christmas Wish

Wishing a great holiday season to all my blog readers. Thanks so much for your support and interest. It means a great deal to me. I wish you peace and happiness this December 25th.

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God Rest The Children of This World

Arctic Madonna by Pitaloosie Saila

In December of 2001, I wrote a poem for my Winnipeg Free Press column inspired by Ogden Nash’s A Carol for Children which was published in The New Yorker in 1935. Although the references in my poem are clearly ones that relate to the news events of 2001, it is sad to note that its sentiments are as timely today as they were then.  

God Rest Our Merry Children– by MaryLou Driedger – December 2001

God rest our merry children, let nothing them dismay
Let nothing scar their pure young hearts, this blessed Christmas Day
May they still believe in magic, the tinsel and the tree
May nothing mar their happiness or taint their innocent glee.

Our children are the cherished ones, shielded from fear and pain,
We care for them and love them, their dreams and hopes sustain.
God rest our merry children, but may we not forget
Those little ones who have no hope, who only know neglect

The children of Afghanistan, so hungry and so cold
AIDS babies born in Africa who never will grow old
Teenagers in Ireland who’ve learned to fight and hate
The orphans of Sierra Leone, what shall they celebrate?
In Palestine and Kurdistan, the children cannot sleep
They fear the bombs and snipers, they hear their mothers weep
While earthquakes rock the cradles in El Salvador
Those growing up in Bosnia live with the scars of war.
Here in North America we need only look to see
The suffering of children who live in poverty
Little minds already numbed by their mother’s alcohol and crack
Homeless, hungry and abused, their future looks so black
And what about the boys and girls who watched their parents die
When the towers of New York City exploded in the sky?
God rest the children of this world, but may we feel dismay
That so many of our little ones are sad this Christmas day.
Let us pray that sometime soon all children everywhere
Will live in comfort and joy and never know despair.

God bless our merry children, but open our eyes to see
All of those who need our help, our generosity.
May each of us do our part, whether great or small
To let the children of this world, know that God loves them all.
We wish a peaceful rest this night for young ones far and near
A blissful bit of slumber free from doubt and fear
God rest the children!

Other posts……..

War is Hell Especially For Children

Standing Up For Children

9/11 Adding Stories to Names

Meeting the Street Children of Dehli

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Filed under Childhood, Holidays

Waiting For the Wise Men

waiting for the wise manMy friend and former colleague Elizabeth posted this painting by Lee Silk Kaercher on her Facebook page.  It is called Waiting for the Wise Men. Elizabeth, who lives in Texas, the state nearest the United States’ southern border, said her heart wept at this image of a young Jesus separated from his refugee parents Mary and Joseph in the same way her country is choosing to separate refugee children from their parents and place them in detention centres.  

Elizabeth said the title of the painting Waiting for the Wise Men made her think of the political climate in the United States.  Everyone seems to be waiting for some wise leader who will rise up and solve the immigration situation in a merciful way.  Surely there is some man or woman out there who could lead the United States with wisdom, compassion, empathy and love? 

The painting Waiting for the Wise Men made me want to ask, “Why is everyone waiting for some wise man or woman to rise up and help humanity become more caring and compassionate?”  There is no need to wait for such a leader.  If enough people are committed enough, and caring enough, change can happen now.  If everyone did their small part to make the world a kinder place, a more just place, it would become exactly that. And I think there are many people who are being kind and compassionate and caring, wise men and women whose actions will eventually bring about systemic change.  We just don’t tend to read about those people in the media, where tyrants and mean-mouthed bullies take centre stage. 

What do we need to do?  Actually, the words attributed to the little boy in the painting tell us. “Love your neighbour as yourself.”  And how do you do that? Jesus said by showing mercy. If we all acted with mercy instead of anger, mercy instead of self-centeredness, mercy instead of indifference  Waiting for the Wise Men would be unnecessary. 

Other posts……….

Supporting Refugees Before It Was Trendy

Tolerating Other Christians

The Beatitudes Come to Life

 

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Filed under Art, Holidays