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Togetherness a wonderful thing to celebrate

The Christmas holiday gives most of us a break from our hectic routine, a chance to enjoy time with loved ones and an opportunity to pause for reflection as we look ahead to the new year. The customs of Christmas make togetherness a theme. Gathering for Christmas dinner, parties and carol services, opening presents around the tree, visiting friends and relatives, sharing a tot of egg nog — all of these things bring people together.

Hand in hand with togetherness comes inclusiveness. Although Christmas is, by definition, a Christian holiday, everyone can enjoy it. You don't have to be a Christian to partake in the wonderful traditions of the season. No one is excluded.

That is perhaps why the tendency to say “happy holidays” rather than “merry Christmas” has become so prevalent. It's not a case of political correctness gone mad, it's all about inclusiveness, welcoming everyone to celebrate Christmas, regardless of their creed.

The “happy holidays” greeting in no way detracts from the Christian aspect of Christmas. On the contrary, it celebrates the values of tolerance and inclusiveness that good Christians practise in their everyday lives.

In Bermuda, togetherness is a wonderful thing to celebrate, especially given that our small population is such a melting pot of diversity, with significant numbers resident here from North America, Europe and Asia.

Too often we hear about the divisions in our community, particularly by race or nationality. The most divisive voices tend to be the loudest and sometimes they come from those with a vested interest in inciting division for their own ends. The result is that we can get a warped view of how deep those divisions are.

In reality, broadly speaking, Bermuda functions pretty well and most of us get on well with each other. There is much evidence that we can and do live and work happily together, much to the chagrin of the divisive types.

Look at the many organisations who thrive, whether locally or internationally, with diverse workforces. Look at the thousands of Bermudians who have chosen to marry a foreigner and look at all the interracial marriages. The children of those couples are the personification of successful integration. Their very existence in loving families makes a nonsense of the small-minded rhetoric of division.

As 15-year-old Debre Evans wrote in her excellent and passionate letter published in this newspaper this week: “Accept people for being different. It's what makes us different that makes us unique and being unique isn't boring, it makes life exciting.”

While Debre was talking about the treatment of gay people in our community, her comment is equally applicable to differences of all kinds among us. It is heartening to read such a sentiment from the mind of one so young and gives one hope for the future of our island.

We should also spare a thought for those who will not be able to join in the Christmas fun, from the emergency services and healthcare workers, to nursing-home staff and carers.

Those missing a recently departed loved one will not be in the mood for fun during a time of year that will only exacerbate their sense of loss. And there will also be those who are alone at Christmas, for whatever reason, such as the homeless highlighted in our front-page story today.

Some are going through hard times financially and may be desperately wishing they could afford to give their children more this Christmas.

Many people in our community have done more than spare a thought for the poor. Those who have run and contributed to the various campaigns — many of them documented in the pages of this newspaper — to give away toys and food to those in need, set a wonderful example that captures the spirit of Christmas.

And so to our valued readers, here's wishing you all a very merry Christmas — and happy holidays, too.

Happy holidays: the Christmas lights at the Cabinet Building on Front Street. The giving spirit of the season has truly been captured by the many residents who have run and contributed to the various charitable campaigns to give toys and food to those in need (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published December 24, 2015 at 8:00 am (Updated December 23, 2015 at 9:59 pm)

Togetherness a wonderful thing to celebrate

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