There’s no denying it – Christmas and a village just go together. There’s the original Santa’s Village, where the famous bearded man and his wife lived and toiled with the elves. There are replicate Santa’s Villages in over 40 countries, including our own province. Even Bethlehem, in the time of Jesus, is referred to by some commentators as a village. And the Whos from Whoville in Dr. Seuss’s famous How the Grinch Stole Christmas, lived in village that was ingeniously located on a snowflake. Every year around this time families begin digging out the boxes with the little figurines, which, when compiled together, become ornate or rustic villages placed on tabletops or on a piano.
So, yes, “Christmas and the village” go comfortably together in ways that “Christmas and the city” or “Christmas and the province” somehow don’t. The concept of “the village” is perhaps the perfect size if we wish to describe an apt environment for citizens coming together to celebrate, worship, shop, have coffee or even just stroll along the streets.
The people of the Wortley Village area and the Old South Community Association (OSCA) have understood and built on this magic for decades. It’s not just about the buildings or amenities. It’s about the people of this place – citizens and their families who moved to this area for some of the very reasons the Christmas and holiday season have become precious – family, sense of community, sharing, celebrating, dining and ultimately a sense of belonging.
As our world gets ever more globalized, there is parallel movement going on in which people seek a sense of place, a belief that not everything in the world is up for sale, including people themselves. There is the growing desire from people that they can pursue life as something bigger than just themselves. But for that to happen they require safety, understanding, a significant dose of common sense, and the belief that if they seek a world of fairness, then they have the backing of others.
Such is Wortley Village. It believes not just in prosperity but people. Instead of just talking about community it offers meaning. This village seeks to shun isolation in favour of inclusion and to downplay mindless consumerism in search for meaningful community. There are people among us seeking consolation, forgiveness, a sense of hope, of recovery and opportunity – all these things that our village already promotes and practices. And they just happen to be the values upon which the Christmas message itself has been built for millennia.
Being a villager isn’t about some kind of status; it is a state of mind that, for all of its opportunities, says that there is enough here for more, including those who are struggling among us. Most of us moved to this area because we wanted value; we now live in it in order to build on those very qualities.
“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love,” noted Hamilton Mabie. It just so happens that Wortley Village has already paid a downpayment for that kind of world and that we have already been working for decades towards building it. Saying Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or Happy Holidays carries a special ring to it when said in the streets, shops and gatherings of a village. We in the Wortley Village have learned and been humbled by that awareness for decades. Wishing the best to everyone during this remarkable season.
This post was originally written as a column for the Wortley Villager magazine.