The first Monday in August is Heritage Day in Alberta, a day to reflect on our family history as well as celebrate the cultural mosaic of Canada. Although I didn’t go this year, I always enjoy attending Heritage Days at Hawrelak Park. The colourful costumes, the lively dancing, the delicious food!
It is interesting to hear the different languages and see how the terrain and the weather of a region affects the people – the way they dress, the food they eat and how it is prepared, the crafts they produce from the gifts of the land.
My father was from the Netherlands so I must go to the Netherlands Pavilion, to listen to the music, admire the wooden shoes and Delft pottery, and most importantly, eat poffertjes! (Tiny, thin pancakes served piping hot with butter and icing sugar.)
When my dad came to Canada in 1950 he left The Netherlands behind – completely. It was a battle-scarred land filled with painful memories. He married a Canadian woman, so the Dutch language was not spoken in our home. Dutch food was never served and although he told us stories of Dutch traditions, they were never observed. “Waltzing Matilda” and “My Bonnie Lassie” were his songs of choice when he was whistling in the garden.
As for me, once I had children, I chose to embrace my Dutch heritage. Our branch of the family celebrates St. Nicholas Day, with a special dinner, homemade Dutch cookies, secret gifts, and a sudden knock at the door which announces that St Nicholas has come and gone…
When I told my dad I was starting such traditions is his only comment was, “Why would you want to do that?”
Why? Because there is value in connecting with past, of being part of a larger picture, of recognizing the culture that has shaped me.
We also have a heritage as Christians, a legacy that transcends familial connections. In Hebrews 11 we read of those who exhibited great faith: Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, David. The New Testament also shares stories of such people: Peter and John, Mary Magdalene, Stephen, Paul. History reminds us of others: Augustine, John Newton, Fanny Crosby, Charles Spurgeon, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr. Each of them links us to previous generations of believers who remind us that we are part of a much larger picture.
These people were at the same time both ordinary and exceptional. They were ordinary in that most came from average, if not humble beginnings. None were born in palaces or in families of great wealth or stature. Amongst them are those who were blatantly sinful and others who felt miserably inadequate. Some struggled with physical disabilities and others with mental health problems. They were imperfect people – just like us. They had families and jobs, household responsibilities and community commitments – just like us.
What makes them exceptional is that they each saw a need and answered God’s call to serve.
Hebrews 12 speaks of that great cloud of witnesses, most of whom lived and died in supposed anonymity but who nonetheless are recognized by God and made an impact for the kingdom of God.
Heritage Day is a good opportunity to consider the heritage that our earthly families have given us. But let’s also remember our Christian heritage and the sacrifices that were made by others that we too might believe and follow.
And let’s never forget that the heritage we have when we come into this world is far less important than the one we leave behind.
Submitted by Lydia Calder
On behalf of Mill Woods Presbyterian Church