At its heart, Canada is a glorious paradox.
We are a warm people, fostered by a cold climate. We take our greatest pride in our reputation for modesty. And we have been at our very best, when the world has confronted us with its very worst.
Canada is possible only because ours is a nation where hope triumphs over reason.
At this moment, Canadians from across our land are being drawn together by ancient traditions about the kindling of hope. Certainly, some of the most committed Christmas and Chanukah celebrations will be in homes with the least commitment to any faith. But just as certainly, we can still be of one conviction in our desire to join hands with our fellow human beings, to see the best in them and to want them to see the best in us, to believe that we have it in ourselves to make the world a better place.
Many of us will come home for the holidays worried about the world we will have to return to in the new year. Dire economic warnings abound. Democracy is being tested across the globe. Insecurity seems to be the only certainty. But Canadians have always found ways to master our fears rather than be mastered by them.
When slavery surged in the United States, George Brown and his generation of Canadians responded by gathering during the Christmas season to breathe new life into the Underground Railroad, and the world became a better place for it.
When the threat of global war erupted in the Suez Canal, Lester Pearson and his generation of Canadians responded by meeting in the weeks before the holidays to create international peacekeeping, and the world became a better place for it.
When the carnage wrought by landmines became too grievous to bear, Lloyd Axworthy and his generation of Canadians responded by assembling the community of nations on a cold December morning to sign the Ottawa Treaty, and the world became a better place for it.
By comparison, the worries that plague us today will surely bore the students of tomorrow.
Instead, when the eyes of future generations are upon us, they will inevitably ask of us, "What did you do to make the world a better place?"
I believe we will be more than able to hold our heads high before the judgement of history if we can reply that in our season, we held onto hope, we put aside our doubts, we came together believing in our better selves, and we remembered that we have always burned brightest as a nation during the darkest hours. Because throughout our long and storied history, the actions borne of our hope have always been Canadians' greatest gifts to the world and to one another.
I can certainly do no better myself than to follow our country's tradition and offer you my hopes that however you celebrate it, the season will bring you every happiness.
This article is adapted from one of Akaash Maharaj's earlier broadcast essays.