As Montreal gets ready to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day my mind slips backwards into a time to when I was a child; to a time when the Italians were seen marching at least once a month up and down the streets with their little brass bands and banners through our community. It was always on a Sunday and it was always right after the morning mass. Some had floats but more often than not it was just a band made up of men playing loudly and enthusiastically, if not always on key, followed the members of their church, holding banners and waving to the people watching. I never paid much attention to the banners I was to busy trying to march along with them until a grown up noticed and called us back to the stoop. It is for this reason that I have had to accept the explanation given to me by the elders in my family that the parades were meant to honor certain saints and certain catholic holy days. They were fun to watch, bonded a people together with their and introduced the church and its practices to all of the people in the community in a fun, attention-getting, non intrusive way. Unfortunately this practice stopped as it seems all good things do now a days, as old customs from immigrants are lost as they try to hide who they were and where they came from and try to look like what the people around them look and act like and blend into the culture and habits of the more established Canadians living where they are. Italian’s tried to lose their accents and gave up the parades and by the time children my age grew to adults they were hardly attending church and certainly not marching in any ones bands and all of those beautiful traditions were lost forever.
The there was the Santa Clause Parade with all of the bells and whistles that attracted the whole city and drew all of Montreal’s citizens together. Black or White, French or English, Protestant or Catholic , Liberal or Conservative, rich or poor, we all stood side by side enjoying the parade and all bonded together as people who love Santa Clause more than we noticed how different we were, or where we came from originally, or what faith we practiced. There was no fighting, and no point to the parade except to share in the universal love of Christmas; a of peace and love; a time for everyone to have fun and exchange well wishes and good tidings to their fellow-man. This parade was a truly uniting practice and a privately sponsored one, so when the major sponsor said it would or could not sponsor it anymore it got a lot smaller and a lot more politically correct and the flavor of all being equal at least at that time was lost. Today the children of my family do not really believe in Santa and seem to have lost the spirit of Christmas and in doing so have lost the benefit of the message that jolly fat old man used to represent and that I do find a shame.
I remember the first Black Jump Up, or Caribbean Festival held here in Montreal, man, that was just the living end. All of the costumes dancing, partying and exchanging of cultures. You name it every color, race, creed and language was in the street together and without incident and I as a Canadian, a Quebecer and a black man was so proud. the city had come together for a good time and no one spoiled it. These type of events in my opinion do a lot more good in breaking down barriers and walls then all of the talks put together. Unfortunately this was not to last and certain little minded gangsters started using the event to target rival gang members and also to loot stores and then the permits got harder to get and then were impossible to get. The Saint Jean The Baptiste Day Parade has become another separatist rally seeking to put forward a separatist agenda rather than share the rich french culture found in Quebec. I think that it is a lost opportunity to offer a look at Quebec’s culture and beauty.
The Saint Patrick’s Day Parade was another parade that united all of the city as one. There was no Black,White, French, English, Jew, or Muslim; the national color was green for that day and everyone was Irish. Floats, bands, singing , dancing and pretty girls were everywhere. there was drinking and a few minor altercations, but for the most part it was just a fun time. all prejudices were left as if by miracle away from the parade. This parade for me always showed what could happen if people really wanted something to work. For a solid week gangs who fought with each other because of racial differences simply stopped fighting as day by day the closer to the parade day people became more green. It is funny to say that since the people from the old countries started dying off the richness in culture and their unique ways of celebrating and sharing who and what they were and are, has vanished from our communities and have been replaced by a political correctness, a Canada for Canadians which means forgetting who you were and your customs and blending into what is already here.
My family is so culturally diverse that we thought that Pierre Elliot Trudeau was talking about us when he stated that Canada was a great mosaic. We have got Black Oriental, White, English, French, Asian, Protestant Catholic, Muslims, East Indian and Canadian and American Natives, just to name a few. We have enough diversity in the family that we have all sides covered on just about every debate, no matter what the topic of discussion is. Our family has rich to poor in it, but when we get together all that is forgotten and we are just a family that loves and cares for each other. This is what we as Montrealers used to be able to share on these special days when we all got together to be green, or walk in a parade, or gathered along the side of a road to wave and say Merry Christmas to Santa Clause and for a moment forget our differences and live like human beings if just for a day.
I long for the days of the church parades, the special time of the year parades and events that brought us all together. The jazz festival, the comedy Festival and all of the things that made us a people, as a nation, above the rest. Of late we can not say merry Christmas without offending someone, the parades have gotten to be a time to drink too much and are used by some as an excuse to rob stores and cause damage to private property. The parades and gatherings are used to perpetuate the bad instead of the good in people by a well organised few and are used by other to put forward a political agenda rather than just having a great cultural exchange and a good time.
If there is enough room in our family for Zachary and me, why is there no room for multiculturalism in our cities, provinces and country?
- Saint Patrick’s Day 2011 (sherby57.co.uk)