Queen's University

The war on Christmas: Queen's University expert


Queen's University adjunct professor of English Heather Evans is available to talk about the war on Christmas – religious observance vs. secular revelry.

"Discussions about Christmas celebrations typically revolve around distinctions between religious observance and secular revelry, and between a so-called traditional celebration and a commercial spectacle. Yet it is worth remembering, during a season steeped in romantic nostalgia, that for most, if not all of its history, the feast of Christmas has been bound up with supposedly unsavoury matters of social rank, economics, and politics," says Dr. Evans.

Dr. Evans is available to speak about Christmas feasting and festivities, and the myth of the “traditional” Christmas, particularly since the nineteenth century. Dr. Evans is also available to speak about the history of festive traditions and Christmas culinary delights, the reassurance we derive from our seasonal return to the past, and the significance of holiday feasting and food rituals. Dr. Evans’ research interests include nineteenth-century literature and food and culinary history.

Please note Dr. Evans is available for phone interviews only.




The history of Christmas
Queen’s University School of Religion professor John Young is available to discuss the religious significance and history of Christmas.
“Christmas and Easter are the two most significant holy days for Christians. Easter was a holy day or festival that Christians celebrated virtually from the beginning of Christianity as a religious movement, but the recognition of Christmas, as a special day, came later,” says Professor Young. “The Bible does not give specific dates for events in Jesus’ life, and the first several generations of Christians did not show a particular interest in the timing of specific events of Jesus’ life, such as his birth. At some point in the second century of the Common Era, January 6, a day Christians call Epiphany, began to become a special day for Christians to celebrate Jesus’ birth, his baptism, and the beginning of his ministry. In the fourth century, December 25 began to be associated with Jesus’ birth; January 6 then began to be linked to Jesus’ baptism among Christians in the East and to the visit of the magi (or the wise men) among Western Christians.”
Professor Young’s research interests include the history of Christianity and the church in Canada.

The joys (and sorrows) of Christmas music
Queen’s University School of Music director Margaret Walker studies music and human culture and can talk about how music can evoke a variety of feelings during the Christmas season.
“On one hand, hearing and especially singing Christmas carols can bring a flood of nostalgic feelings, evoking the best memories of childhood magic. On the other, the constant sonic wall of Christmas music in public spaces can feel invasive and anything but magical.”
Dr. Walker feels participation in holiday music making and choosing times and places to listen actively to music can help us find that special feeling again.
Please note Dr. Walker is only available for phone interviews.

Forgiveness and reconciliation during the holidays
Languages, Literatures & Cultures professor Jill Scott studies forgiveness and reconciliation and can talk about the difficulty of settling disputes during the holidays.
"The holidays are an intensely emotional time. We often have high hopes that we can reconcile past disputes and maybe even forgive those who we have hurt us. But because we step out of our normal routines and spend more time with family, this is often the most difficult time to heal wounds and settle disagreements," says Dr. Scott, the author of A Poetics of Forgiveness: Cultural Responses to Loss and Wrongdoing. "It is helpful to set reasonable goals. Preparing a list of coping strategies is a first step in avoiding potentially harmful situations."

Holiday planning for separated, divorced and blended families
Family law expert Nick Bala can discuss issues associated with custody, access and parenting arrangements at this time of year. With the holiday season approaching lawyers, mediators, counselors and judges see a flood of separating and divorced parents attempting to settle a range of issues related to parenting over the holidays.
According to Professor Bala, the parents in front of a judge are those who have the most difficulty co-operating; questions may be asked whether they thinking most about their children or themselves? What steps should separated parents take to deal with issues around the holidays, to increase their children's happiness and reduce stress on themselves? On a systemic level, should Canadians be adopting new concepts and approaches to better resolve issues between separated parents?

The dangers of shoveling snow
Queen’s University cardiology professor Adrian Baranchuk completed research last year into snow shoveling and the risks associated with this winter chore. He discovered a significant number of patients who visited the hospital with heart problems started experiencing symptoms while shoveling. He is available to comment on the risks of shoveling for people in all age categories and why it is classified as a high-risk physical activity.
Please note Dr. Baranchuk can conduct interviews in both English and Spanish.

Staying healthy/overeating during the holidays
The holidays are a time of year when indulging in Christmas treats should be offset by exercise and healthy eating. Queen’s University kinesiology and health studies professor Robert Ross can provide comments on how to achieve that balance. Dr. Ross is an expert on childhood and adult obesity, and he is currently leading a $1.8-million study funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) on the effects of exercise on excess abdominal fat and the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Please note Dr. Ross is only available until Dec. 21 (and not available on Dec. 17).

To arrange an interview, please contact communication officers Michael Onesi (office: 613.533.6000 ext. 77513, michael.onesi@queensu.ca) or Anne Craig (office: 613-533-2877, Anne.Craig@queensu.ca) at Queen’s University News and Media Services Department in Kingston, Ont., Canada.

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Last updated at 11:29 am EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
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