Wednesday, December 5, 2018


Virtual Advent Tour 2018 is hosted at Sprite Writes. It is not too late to sign up and join in.

I don't have a particularly festive post today, but December 6th is an important day in Canadian history. Two huge events that are still remembered each year happened on December 6th: the Halifax Explosion, and the Ecole-Polytechnique Massacre.

Last year was the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion, the largest man-made explosion until the atomic bombs in 1945. Two ships, the Mont-Blanc and the Imo, collided in the harbour. One of the ships was filled with explosives and thus the terrible devastation.

There are several great reads about the Halifax Explosion, particulary Barometer Rising by Hugh MacLennan. It was written as fiction, but is based on the facts. This year I listened to The Blizzard of Glass by Sally M Walker, a nonfiction read geared to young adults. Like all good nonfiction, it includes all the facts, but incorporates personal stories into the narrative.

I can tie the Halifax Explosion to Christmas! Every year, the province of Nova Scotia sends a huge Christmas tree to the city of Boston in remembrance of the help and support Boston provided to Halifax after the explosion. The Maritimes and 'the Boston states' have always had a close relationship as many Maritimers moved to Massachusetts to make their living. Many eventually returned, and few people from here don't have distant relatives in the Boston states. The gift of the tree is a tangible recognition of this connection.

Canadians grew up watching a great Heritage Minute about Vince Coleman, the telegraph operator who realized what was going on and was able to send a message to an incoming train to warn them of the disaster in Halifax, saving hundreds of lives. We used to love watching this with our kids, because each week, they would hope Vince would survive, but alas, he never did.

The second event commemorated on December 6th is the murder of 14 young women at the l'Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal. The only reason they were killed is because they were women. Women studying to become engineers. 

December 6th is now a day of remembrance and action on violence against women. It is also a reminder that Christmas is not a wonderful time for everyone - some people are scared and in danger in their own home. The image of peaceful Christmas around the tree is not for all.

I was in university, and my sister was studying engineering at a different university in 1989. It was one of the first gun massacres and mass shootings, ten years before Columbine. It was so shocking and horrifying. There was changed gun control legislation as a result of this massacre. 

While both these events were terrible days in Canadian history, remembering them each December 6th is a part of leading up to Christmas, a time of hope and promise.