by Gerard Jose,
Chief Executive Officer,
Bendigo Community Health Services
So very proud to be CEO of an organisation with staff that strive to improve the quality of life of all members of the community and offer our hands to those seeking support.
Our vision for better health and wellbeing across generations is a powerful reminder for me of the reason many of us chose to work at BCHS.
The Bendigo Community Health Services mission is to work hand in hand with our community to achieve healthier lives and this is demonstrated daily with our compassion for others who may have challenges and trials.
This is a wonderful, friendly and multi-cultural community comprising people from all walks of life.
People from many lands have made our city and region what it is today, and whilst I delight in my own heritage and culture, I so enjoy and appreciate the rich mosaic of the many cultures that weave the fabric of our community.
From my experience and observations, it’s clear our organisation works with many others to address embedded disadvantage, warmly embraces newcomers and achieves great outcomes in supporting our communities to be more diverse, tolerant and inclusive.
With our traditional festive season fast approaching, my family and I would like to share our best wishes to all of you, your families and friends for a special, safe and joyous time.
Many people celebrate other than Christmas during the festive season here. With so many diverse cultures living together in harmony, it is certainly not surprising that many celebrations – religious, secular or cultural – are celebrated before, during and after Christmas.
Here is a snapshot:
- Diwali (Hindu): It is a five-day holiday of lights usually that celebrates the victory of light over darkness or the triumph of good over evil.
- Bodhi Day (Buddhist): This commemorates the exact moment of Buddha’s awakening under the Bodhi tree and is a celebration of enlightenment, meditation and chanting.
- Karen people: Partake in range of festivals such as wrist tying. The Karen celebrate Christmas by going to homes and singing carols on the first of December and inviting friends over for noodles and sticky rice on December 25.
- Hanukkah (Jewish): Also known as the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah will be celebrated from the evening of December 22 to 30 in 2019. It commemorates the purification of the Temple.
- Feast of Juul (Scandinavian): A pre-Christian festival celebrated in December. On this day, a yule log is burned on the hearth in honor of the Scandinavian god Thor.
- Yalda (Persia/Iran): Also called Shab–e-Yalda, it marks the last day of the Persian month of Azar during ancient times. It commemorates the victory of light over dark and the birth of the sun god Mithra.
- St. Lucia’s Day (Scandinavian): On this day, girls dress up in white gowns with red sashes and wreaths of candles on their heads to honor the saint. It is also called the festival of lights as people light up fires to ward off spirits at night.
- Dong Zhi (Chinese): Dong Zhi celebrates the end of harvest and the arrival of winter. In the traditional Chinese celestial calendar, this falls between December 21 and 23. Families gather together to enjoy a feast in celebration. Chinese New Year marks the end of winter and the start of spring. It usually falls between January 21 and February 20
- Gody (Poland): This is the tradition of showing forgiveness and sharing food. It was part of pre-Christian winter solstice celebrations.
- Chaomos (Kalasha, Pakistan): Kalasha or Kalash Kafir people celebrate for at least seven days. It involves ritual baths for purification, singing and chanting, a torchlight procession, dancing, bonfires, and feasts.
- St. Thomas Day/Sun God festival (Guatemala): December 21 is the feast day of St. Thomas the Apostle. However, on this day, Mayan Indians also hold a festival honouring the sun god.
- Ramadan (Muslim): Ramadan is a month of daily fasting during daylight hours that culminates in Eid-al-Fitr, when they break the fast.
Artist Haddon Sundblom created and fine tuned the image and story of Santa between 1931 and 1965.
Our festive season sees the end of one year and anticipates the commencement of a new one.
It is a time when we can reflect on the past and plan for the future.
Being aware that many members of our community are not attached to Christmas as a religious celebration, I wish to outline some slightly different aspects to the history of Christmas.
- The origins of Christmas can be traced back to ancient pagan celebrations such as Deus Sol Invictus (observed December 25), the Kalends (January 1-5), and Saturnalia (December 17-23). The Christian Church co-opted the holidays by declaring December 25 as Jesus’ birthday.
- Early illustrations of Santa Claus pictured him wearing a coat of blue, and a stern, commanding disciplinarian holding a birch rod. He was based upon the 4th century Bishop of Myra, Saint Nicholas who was reported to be a Greek speaking man of Mediterranean complexion. The jolly white old man we are shown today was popularised by artist Haddon Sundblom for Coca-Cola ad about 1931.
- Mistletoe was held sacred by the Norse, the Celtic Druids, and Native American Indians, because it remains green and bears fruit during winter when other plants seem to die. Druids thought the plant had the power to cure infertility and nervous diseases, and to ward off evil.
- According to old English folk tales, the Devil died when Jesus was born. So some towns developed a Christmas Eve tradition of ringing the church bells near midnight to announce the Devil’s demise.
A common theme of all festive celebrations includes people sharing joy and love with people around them. It is also a time of tolerance and care when we often reach out to others, particularly those that are lonely, sad or facing pain and suffering in our communities or around the world.
I truly believe that we can hold onto the spirit of generosity and community care that the festive period brings and apply it for the whole year in building caring and more inclusive people, households, families, neighbourhoods and communities.
My wish is we now need to maintain our strong advocacy for the disadvantaged and be courageous in our support for our diverse, tolerant and multicultural society.
On behalf of the Board of Directors, the Senior Leadership Team and all our wonderful staff, thank you for your enormous support over the past year and we wish you well for a safe conclusion to 2019 and a happy, healthy and safe 2020.
‘So many gods, so many creeds,
So many paths that wind and wind,
While just the art of being kind,
Is all this sad world needs’
Ella Wheeler Wilcox