Issue II, Volume VIII      Friday, December 21, 2007

                                                       XPERIENCE XCHANGE ...Read, Contribute, Experience

                                                          I travel a lot; I hate having my life disrupted by routine.
                                                                                                   ~Caskie Stinnett
                                                       HOLIDAY EDITION                                                   Nikki San Pedro
Ryerson Events
Midyear Break                                                                                                  chocolate gelt, make ornaments
Ryerson is closed Friday,                                                                                      or dreidels, and more impor-
December 21, 2007
                                                                                                               tantly to them, they‟ll exchange
to Tuesday, January 1,
2008 inclusive. Enjoy the
                                                                                                               presents. While I don‟t neces-
holidays!                                                                                                      sarily agree that these holidays
                                                                                                               are all about the gift exchange,
Ryerson Events                                                                                                 if it gets the young folk inter-
Ryerson Rams Men's                                                                                             ested about holiday traditions,
Hockey                                                                                                         it‟s not all too horrible or
Rams vs. Windsor                                                                                               amoral.
Come out and cheer on your
Rams men's hockey team.                                                                                        I‟ll be the first to admit I‟m
Friday, January 4 at 7:30 PM                                                                                   definitely not a big fan of capi-
at George Bell Arena, 215                                                                                      talism and the commodifcation
Ryding Street, one block south                                                                                 of traditionally holy symbols.
of St. Clair Ave. W and east of                                                                                Regardless of the over-
Runnymede.                                                                                                     commercialization of these sa-
** A kind reminder: The OIA                                                                                    cred events, I can support one
will be e-mailing exchange                                                                                     notion that every other greeting
evaluation forms soon.            „Tis the season to be jolly. This is   these as a bastardization of spiri-   card company spreads: this is a
Please fill them out and          the time of year when many of us       tual rejoicing – a commercializa-     time to celebrate togetherness
return at your earliest con-      have that break from work or           tion of something sacred.             and generosity. In my ideal
venience. Thanks**                school to observe various holi-                                              world, these things would be
                                  days. Growing up, the main holi-       Yes I can see how pop icons           practiced year-round, but unfor-
                                  days my primary school cele-           singing about Santa Claus has         tunately it‟s not something we
Outside Ryerson                                                                                                always acknowledge. So even if
                                  brated were Christmas and Ha-          little to do with the birth of Je-
New Year's Eve at Nathan                                                                                       it means we spend some money
                                  nukkah. We would dress in our          sus. And that the Hanukkah
Phillips Square                                                                                                to realize these things, at least
                                  best red, white and green clothes      Bush was nowhere to be found
Join thousands of others this                                                                                  an effort is put forth in the first
                                  or blue and white. I‟d hazard a        near the burning oil ages ago.
New Year’s Eve at Nathan                                                                                       place to appreciate each other.
                                  guess that if you haven‟t cele-        But seeing as how many youths
Phillips Square. Citytv pre-
                                  brated either the birth of Christ or   learn their values from the media
sents this free, annual outdoor                                                                                Whether it happens over setting
                                  the re-kindling of the Temple me-      rather than religious institutions,
concert and New Year’s Eve                                                                                     up nativity displays in church
                                  norah at the time of the Maccabee      isn‟t it only an accurate reflec-
event, with Canada’s top Ca-                                                                                   and lighting the synagogue, or
nadian musical talent and
                                  rebellion, you‟ve been exposed to      tion that, like the characters on-
                                  some media reference to them –         screen, we hold these icons in        spending time with friends and
midnight fireworks. Perform-                                                                                   family over festive cocktails or
ances by Plain White T’s, Roz
                                  Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer         high regard?
                                  cartoons, Adam Sandler‟s “The                                                dinners surrounded by wrap-
Bell, jDIGGZ and the cast of
                                  Hanukkah Song”, and the charac-        As I talk to my peers, a good         ping paper and gift bags, I just
We Will Rock You. The pre-
                                  ters of The O.C. celebrating their     handful of them claim they are        hope we are less focused on the
show starts at 8 p.m. and the
                                  hybrid holiday Chrismukkah.            non-practicing Jews or Christian      material goods and appreciate
official party kicks off at 11
                                                                         only on Christmas and Easter.         the time and warmth provided
                                  Many traditionalists may see           They‟ll deck the halls and eat        by our loved ones.
                   XPERIENCE XCHANGE

        Season’s Greetings
Although this is a time of togetherness, it is also a matter of controversy. Can we say “Merry Christmas” or should we just stick with
“Happy Holidays”? After all, doing one or the other has the potential to alienate a whole group of people.

Traditionally, when one thought of the holiday season in Canada, they were only acknowledging Christmas Eve, Christmas Day,
Hanukkah, Boxing Day and New Year‟s. But we are a multicultural city, so why not appreciate the different celebrations happening
all around the world of this time of year? Here is just a small sample...

Kwanzaa                                                                                                  Diwali
Kwanzaa is a week-long Pan-African festival primarily honouring African-American heri-                   Diwali is a major Indian and Nep-
tage. It is observed from December 26 to January 1 each year, almost exclusively in the                  alese festive holiday, and a signifi-
USA. Kwanzaa consists of seven days of celebration, featuring activities such as candle-                 cant festival in Hinduism and some
lighting and pouring of libations, and culminating in a feast and gift-giving. It was created            of the other faiths which originated
by Ron Karenga, and first celebrated from December 26, 1966, to January 1, 1967. Karenga                 in India - Jainism and Sikhism. The
calls Kwanzaa the African American branch of "first fruits" celebrations of classical African            festival marks the victory of good
cultures.                                                                                                over evil, and uplifting of spiritual
                                                                       The seven candles on              darkness. Symbolically it marks
                                                                       the Kinara symbolize              the homecoming of goodwill and
                                                                       the principles of Kwan-           faith after an absence, as suggested
                                                                       zaa:                              by the story of Ramayana.
                                                                       unity, self-
                                                                       determination, collective         On the day of Diwali, many wear
                                                                       work and responsibility,          new clothes, share sweets and
                                                                       cooperative economics,            snacks. Some North Indian busi-
                                                                       purpose in life, creativity       ness communities start their finan-
                                                                       and faith.                        cial year on Diwali and new ac-
                                                                                                         count books are opened on this

                                                                                                         While Diwali is popularly known
                                                                                                         as the "festival of lights", the most
                                                                                                         significant spiritual meaning is "the
                                                                                                         awareness of the inner light". Cen-
                                                                                                         tral to Hindu philosophy is the as-
                                                                                                         sertion that there is something be-
                                                                                                         yond the physical body and mind
                                                                                                         which is pure, infinite, and eternal,
       Diwali celebrates                                                                                 called the Atman. Just as we cele-
    this through festive                                                                                 brate the birth of our physical be-
        fireworks, lights,                                                                               ing, Diwali is the celebration of
     flowers, sharing of                                                                                 this Inner Light, in particular the
       sweets, and wor-                                                                                  knowing of which outshines all
          ship. While the                                                                                darkness , awakening the individ-
    story behind Diwali                                                                                  ual to one's true nature, not as the
     varies from region                                                                                  body, but as the unchanging, infi-
       to region, the es-                                                                                nite, immanent and transcendent
     sence is the same                                                                                   reality. With the realization of the
       - to rejoice in the                                                                               Atman comes universal compas-
   Inner Light (Atman)                                                                                   sion, love, and the awareness of the
       or the underlying                                                                                 oneness of all things. This brings
     reality of all things                                                                               Ananda (Inner Joy or Peace).

     Page 2                                                                                          Continued on Next page
                XPERIENCE XCHANGE

        Greetings cont’d
Yule is a winter festival celebrated in North-                                                Pongal
ern Europe since ancient times. In pre-                                                       Pongal is a harvest festival equivalent to
Christian times, Germanic pagans celebrated                                                   a Thanksgiving event celebrated by
Yule in late December or early January on a                                                   Tamils across the world. Pongal in
date determined by a lunar calendar. During                                                   Tamil means "boiling over or spill
the process of Christianization and the adop-                                                 over." The act of boiling over of milk in
tion of the Julian calendar, Yule was placed on                                               a clay pot is considered to denote future
December 25, in order to correspond with the                                                  properity for the family. Pongal is cele-
Christian celebrations later known in English                                                 brated by the Indian state of Tamil Nadu
as Christmas. Thus, the terms "Yule" and                                                      as well as Tamils worldwide. People of
"Christmas" are often used interchangeably,                                                   all relegions celebrate pongal festival.
especially in Christmas carols.                                                               The festival is at least 1000 years old
In Denmark, Norway and Sweden the term jul                                                    although some belive that the festival is
is the most common way to refer to the cele-                                                  more than 2000 years old.
bration, including among Christians. In
Finland, it is called joulu, in Estonia jõulud,
and in Iceland and the Faroe Islands jól.
Yule is an important festival for Germanic
neopagans, Wiccans and various secular
groups who observe the holiday at the win-
ter solstice (December 21 or 22 in the
Northern Hemisphere, June 20 or 21 in the
Southern Hemisphere). Yulefest, for exam-
ple, is held by many Australians on a week-
end in late June.

Los Posadas
In Mexico, Christmas is an important holiday season with strong traditions. One of the
most colorful traditions is the posada party, celebrated every evening from December 16
to 24. These celebrations commemorate Mary and Joseph's cold and difficult journey
from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of shelter. "Posada" in Spanish, simply means
lodging or shelter. Nowadays, the posada has evolved into a religious and social celebra-
tion, paying a festive homage to the journey.
The happy end to each posada has always been the piñata. A piñata is a fragile earthen-
ware jar covered with paper mache, traditionally made in the shape of a star, to recall the
one that so mysteriously guided the Three Kings to the newborn Jesus.

                        Soyal is the winter solstice ceremony of the Zuni and the Hopi . It is held on December 21st, the shortest day
                        of the year. Many cultures all over the world celebrate the solstice in various ways, since the shortest day of
                        the year carries a lot of symbolism for cultures which live by the cycles of the seasons. The main purpose of
                        the ritual is to ceremonially bring the sun back from its long winter slumber. It also marks the beginning of
                        another cycle of the Wheel of the Year, and is a time for purification. Pahos, prayer sticks, are made prior to
                        the Soyal ceremony, to bless all the community, including their homes, animals, and plants. The sacred un-
                        derground ritual chambers, called kivas, are ritually opened to mark the beginning of the Kachina season.
                        One of the distinctive images of Soyal is an effigy of a plumed snake, which represents the forces of darkness
                        which try to swallow the sun. During the ceremony, people make offerings to the snake which are intended to
                        appease it so that it does not swallow the sun god. The sun is represented by a traditional shield which is car-
                        ried in the Soyal dance.
    Page 3
                XPERIENCE XCHANGE

                                     One Year Later                                                            Nikki San Pedro

Goodbyes Suck                                                        local transit system is something I felt only residents could truly
As I write this, it is exactly one year since I left Canada for my   understand. And with this realization, a typically annoying situa-
exchange experiences. And how I wish I could go back to De-          tion became a humbling one.
cember 18, 2006 and do it all over again.
                                                                                                                  I was lucky enough to
Not enough positive things can be said about going on an ex-                                                      share my new home
change. We get to see the world, experience different cultures,                                                   with some friendly
meet amazing people – the list is endless. But I‟m sure many of                                                   faces. First my best
us can agree on the worst part about the whole process: saying                                                    friend and then my
goodbye. As a part of my exchange, I said many many good-                                                         mother made the trek
byes, and I died a little on the inside each time.                                                                across the Pacific
                                                                                                                  Ocean to this place
                           The first goodbyes to my friends                                                       where I was making a
                           were the least difficult to endure. My                                                 life for myself. Being
                           elation far outweighed the sadness.                                                    visited was one of the
                           After all, I was leaving them for a                                                    greatest feelings – to
                           worthwhile cause: to escape winter        My ghetto welcome signage for my friend at   be able to take them
                           and live and learn in Australia.          the airport (her nickname is Mof).           to the restaurants I
                                                                                                                  frequented and show
                           My first stop was a ten day stay in       them what I had accomplished at uni (to prove I was legitimately
                           California, to visit my Mom for           there for an exchange and not just a very long vacation!). What
                           Christmas. Once that time was up, it      was especially great was to be able to explore other parts of Aus-
                           was a hard goodbye for my mother,         tralia‟s east coast
                           but one I could swallow without dif-
                           ficulty; I was finally leaving North      But when it came time
                           America for the first time in 18          for them to leave, the
                           years!                                    goodbyes were a lot
My goodbye face.                                                     harder. Although I
Then I spent 2 full weeks with some Canadian friends in Seoul,       knew I would see them
Korea to kick in the New Year. It was a good two weeks that          in a few months, it was
made the culture shock in Australia seem like nothing com-           virtually a tease to have
pared to what I was facing in Asia. Seoul was my final stop          the comforts of my real
before heading to Sydney, so while I had become well ac-             home around for only a
quainted with some new friends, I had to bid them a fond fare-       few weeks – to have
well to make some more.                                              people who laughed at
                                                                     my jokes, and not just    We saw baby ‘roos in Cairns, and explored
Before I knew it, I was calling Sydney home. I had filed to get      because I delivered them the rainforest.
work rights and a tax file number, set up bank accounts and          in my strange Canadian
phone lines, found myself some jobs. It was amazing how natu-        accent.
ral it was to be a grownup when I was challenged to do so. I
even did my own taxes there, which I have never even at-             But the goodbyes I had to say when I was leaving Australia were
tempted to do here since my mom is conveniently an account-          the worst. After making the most of this time abroad, I guess it
ant.                                                                 was only natural to feel a great void when having to part with the
                                                                     places and people that contributed to so many memories. I don‟t
I can still remember the first time I felt like a Sydneysider and    know when I‟ll have enough money to go back to this land I
not just a Canadian exchange student. It was rush hour and I         called home for a good part of a year. I don‟t know if I‟ll ever see
was on the main street in the commercial business district. Sur-     my international friends again, despite intentions to meet on an-
rounded by heaps of business people at the bus stop, we              other part of the world some time in the future. One thing‟s for
watched as full bus after full bus passed us by while we impa-       certain, I‟ll never say goodbye to the memories I collected, the
tiently waited to get home after a day of work. I got the feeling    life lessons I learned. And the many warm welcomes I received
that, like every other Sydneysider, the public busses were hold-     when I returned to Toronto were nice; they almost made the
ing me back from doing my daily activities; this disdain for the     goodbyes bearable. Almost.
    Page 4

FORTNIGHT FOTO                                                                                Nicole Robicheau

 This picture was taken in the former Soviet Union state of Moldova. I spent some time volunteering at an independent
 newspaper in the capital of Chişinău this past summer.

 Most people in Moldova are Orthodox Christians. I expressed some interest to the people I worked with in going inside one of
 the churches. So one day, there was a big celebration happening, the breaking of one of their many fasts and one of the women
 took me with her.

 Growing up Catholic, it was a stark change from the churches I‟m used to. For one, there were no benches anywhere and the
 priests weren‟t up on an altar. They were walking around, as were the rest of the people. And there were so many colours
 everywhere, from the clothing worn, to the paintings all over the walls. And rather than speaking, the priests were chanting.

 Many of the churches in Moldova were destroyed during the Soviet era and this one was no exception. It was restored only a
 few years before.

                                                     That’s it for now. The next newsletter will be out in a fortnight!
                                                     Remember to send your ideas, stories and pictures to
                                                     oiahelp@ryerson.ca , or stop by the office located on the 11th floor of
  Page 5                                             1Dundas St West #1131, 416-979-5000 Ex. 2611

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