Student Voices: A season of giving | Work of Arts
Student Voices: A season of giving | Work of Arts

Student Voices: A season of giving

Arts Leadership Cohort member Jeremiah Ellis remembers the real meaning of Christmas

Student Voices is a WOA blog feature that presents the experiences and viewpoints of current Arts students. Through their posts, you’ll experience the creativity and passion of our students as they present glimpses into student life. The views and opinions expressed within these posts are solely those of the authors. 


One of my favourite spots in the city at the moment is the dazzlingly decorated grounds of the Alberta Legislature Building. Mesmerizing lights in assorted colours of green and blue and red wrap themselves around the many trees on the grounds while the distant lights of the buildings in the city glimmer in the distance. As I walk through the crisp grounds, I notice that the soft hum of the city has been drowned out by the sounds of the children playing in the snow and by the nostalgically familiar Christmas music now pouring out of the brightly lit Legislature building.

A local harmonic orchestra is playing a holiday set tonight.

Standing now with many people of all ages, gathered in the packed but very warm hall of the building, I notice how still and captivated everyone is as they listen to the orchestra. I also notice that since I’ve entered the grounds I haven’t even thought about how stressed I was earlier today about approaching finals or how worried I was about not having enough money to buy gifts for everyone.

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In a world on permanent overdrive, Christmas is the one time where we should all finally take a break from all our troubles. It’s a time where we should appreciate what we have rather than rushing in and out of stores looking for the latest lustrous product and stressing over what we don’t have. It’s a time for family and it’s a time for peace.

It’s also a time where we should understand that although we may have problems, there are people out there who don’t have anything at all.

After the orchestra finishes their first few pieces, the conductor announces to the many children, parents, grandparents and other guests that the orchestra will now be playing an older, less contemporary song: Messiah by George Frideric Handel.

At its roots, Christmas is a Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus, so there certainly is a religious aspect to it. However, going to a Catholic school from Kindergarten to Grade 12, I learnt that the religious aspect of Christmas is not simply limited to the birth of Christ. Another aspect of Christmas and of Christianity is also the idea of loving your neighbour and realizing that in a privileged position you can and should extend a hand to the meek and the marginalized. I remember every year during Christmas, our school would organize some sort of social justice initiative, such as putting together hampers for homeless citizens or providing gifts to underprivileged children.

We do, in fact, have a responsibility to extend a hand to the meek and marginalized, simply because it is the right thing to do.

I also remember learning about St. Nicholas, the basis for the legend of Santa Claus. Historically speaking, St. Nicholas was a man who used his massive wealth and inheritance to aid those in need. And because he was so humble and did not want to receive praise for his good deeds or be seen as somehow better than others, St. Nicolas would quietly slip bags of gold at night through the windows of the houses of impoverished families. He did this simply because he felt a duty as a privileged person to give to those in need.

This idea of loving your neighbour and of acknowledging one’s common humanity is something that all people can and should learn — religious or not. It is in our nature to help others. As privileged people, we do, in fact, have a responsibility to extend a hand to the meek and marginalized, not because the Bible tells us — although that can be the reason — but simply because it is the right thing to do.

Now, I think we should also remember that those in need can be the people around us, the people we see every day. As we near the end of the semester, there are some who may have stumbled and lost their way in the last few weeks or few months. They may be at the point of giving up. You know who they are — if you don’t, look again. These people don’t need your cynicism or your criticism — there’s enough of that going on inside their own minds. What they need is for you to give them gifts that will help them turn things around — gifts that all of us are capable of giving any time and anywhere. Empathy. Compassion. Belief. Remember, people need someone to believe in them before they can believe in themselves.

I hope you all have a fantastic holiday. Thanks for reading.

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About Jeremiah Ellis

Jeremiah Ellis

Jeremiah Ellis is a first year political science student with an English minor. Originally from Canmore, Alberta, he currently lives on the Arts Leadership Cohort floor in Lister Hall. He is a loyal Toronto Maple Leafs fan who enjoys reading, writing, films and hockey. He has a keen interest in literature and human rights and hopes to work in a field where he can be involved in social justice.