Like everything else in Montreal, Christmas has a ‘mode de jour’, a current style.
A few years ago, those hanging-icicle lights were de rigueur. Every second house had them.
While the lights still abound, the inflatable has become the newest addition to the outdoor Christmas home decoration repertoire on Quebec streets.
Santa, snow people, reindeers and a host of other seasonal creatures now mark out the most au courant households.
Tall or small the nearly always balloon-round creatures draw your eye to the snow-less yard that they dominate.
One particularly ambitious resident of Ville d’Anjou, the arrondissement of Montreal where I hang my toque when here in Quebec, went all out.
They found a two-metre high, pneumatic snow globe for their front yard. This snow globe, of course, has the mandatory blowing snow inside it.
A continual blizzard swirls around with the help of a hidden fan. In addition to that it has a carrousel inside its chamber with a Santa, snowman and Christmas tree constantly circulating for the amusement of pedestrian and motorist alike.
I missed the Halloween variant of this globe which, I was told, had bats instead of snow fluttering around inside with witches and skeletons replacing the Christmas characters.
Our Western consumer-driven lifestyle must appear almost like a giant snow globe to most of the world’s population.
A fanciful, almost mythological media-borne image of a land of plenty certainly exists in the global mind’s eye.
It seems to carry everyone inside its wealth-created boundaries around and around on a carrousel of continual consumption.
We know that isn’t true, of course. The National Council of Welfare reports that the lowest provincial welfare rate in 2005 gave a single employable person $3,427 annually. Add less than a $1,000 to that and you have our Yukon transient benefit.
Across the nation the lowest welfare rate for a lone parent with a dependent child in 2005 was $12,326. You certainly aren’t on any carrousel of consumption at those rates.
Using the Statistics Canada pre-tax low-income cut-offs the National Council of Welfare also reports that 47.1 per cent of all single moms and their children live in poverty.
The average female lone-parent income of $34,100 in 2004 supports this fact. The basics of rent and food would easily take care of most of that.
The December/January issue of Walrus has a photo essay entitled Our Weekly Bread by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio. It shows 15 families from around the world surrounded by their entire weeks food supply.
For a family in Iqaluit, Nunavut it cost $392 a week to feed a family of five supplemented by fresh country meats and fish while a gardening, mainly vegetarian family in Gatineau, Quebec, got by on $158.
The article forces us to remember those on the other side of the globe. A farming family of nine in Tingo, Ecuador, has to make do essentially on the food they grow.
For the oil, rice and other necessities they don’t cultivate, they spent $36 over the same seven days. And 16 members of an extended African family in Mali got by on basically a millet porridge served with various spicy sauces. It cost them $30 a week.
From inside or outside our metaphorical glass globe this Christmas, over whatever meal is served let us all remember and give thanks for the other.
Slowly we are coming to recognize our oneness. One act of economic or social justice at a time we are breaking through the transparent barriers that still divide us. Have a peace and joy-filled Christmas.