An ap­pro­pri­ate time to dec­o­rate?

The Beacon Herald - - FRONT PAGE - CORY SMITH STAFF RE­PORTER BEA­CON HER­ALD

It’s a ques­tion that sur­faces around this time each year – is it OK to dec­o­rate for Christ­mas be­fore Re­mem­brance Day?

It de­pends who you ask, and chances are it will turn into a con­tentious topic, es­pe­cially on so­cial me­dia.

On one side are those who be­lieve it’s dis­re­spect­ful to­ward vet­er­ans. On the other side are those who be­lieve cel­e­brat­ing Christ­mas and hon­our­ing vet­er­ans are not mu­tu­ally ex­clu­sive.

“Per­son­ally I pre­fer it would be af­ter Re­mem­brance Day be­cause you’re tak­ing away from vet­er­ans who have given us what we have to­day,” said Al Miller, pres­i­dent of the Royal Cana­dian Le­gion Vic­tory Branch 317 in Lon­don. “Christ­mas (should be) cel­e­brated closer to Christ­mas, (but) busi­ness is busi­ness, and peo­ple fig­ure they’re go­ing to do what’s best for their busi­ness.”

Cas­par Ko­evoets han­dles pub­lic re­la­tions for the same Lon­don le­gion branch and said, while the of­fi­cial stance is that busi­nesses and in­di­vid­u­als can dec­o­rate when­ever they want, he’d rather they wait un­til af­ter vet­er­ans have had their day.

Ko­evoets’ fam­ily lived through five years of Ger­man oc­cu­pa­tion in a small Bel­gian town that was lib­er­ated by Cana­dian and Scot­tish troops shortly be­fore he was born. He served briefly with the Dutch Armed Forces be­fore im­mi­grat­ing to Canada in 1967.

“We were al­ways told never for­get,” Ko­evoets said. “Peo­ple know the im­por­tance, and we spend a lot of time and ef­fort ed­u­cat­ing folks, but we think they can put Christ­mas and Santa Claus aside for a day.

“We have our pref­er­ences, but it is what it is.”

Michel Guitard spent more than 20 years in the Cana­dian Armed Forces be­fore mov­ing to Strat­ford and join­ing the re­serves. He said the ma­jor­ity of vet­er­ans he’s spo­ken with don’t have an is­sue with Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions go­ing up be­fore Re­mem­brance Day.

“Ninety per cent said they don’t care, as long as (fam­i­lies) are out and they bring their kids out and they re­mem­ber our fallen com­rades, that’s all that counts.” Guitard has mixed feel­ings about the sub­ject. “It doesn’t mat­ter ei­ther way,” he said Fri­day at Strat­ford’s Army, Navy and Air Force Vet­er­ans ban­quet hall. “I agree (with the dis­sent­ing view) in the sense that they’re putting up their tree and it’s Hal­loween for cry­ing out loud.” Royal Cana­dian Army Cadets 223 Perth County com­mand­ing of­fi­cer An­drew Piper said he would pre­fer if Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions were hung af­ter Re­mem­brance Day. “A lot of peo­ple the day af­ter, Nov. 12, are hang­ing lights, which is fine, but be­fore­hand is a lit­tle much.”

Strat­ford le­gion past-pres­i­dent Dave Me­whin­ney said he hasn’t seen many Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions up yet, but he can un­der­stand both sides of the de­bate. His in­cli­na­tion is for home­own­ers and busi­nesses to give it time.

“I think dec­o­ra­tions for any hol­i­day sea­son should go up af­ter Nov. 11 to show re­spect for the fallen who gave their lives for the peo­ple to run their busi­ness and do their day-to­day ac­tiv­i­ties,” he said. “If it wasn’t for them, they might not be as lucky as they are or where they are.”

Con­versely, “in some cases some peo­ple might want to get that type of dec­o­ra­tion up be­fore the snow flies or it’s too cold,” he added. “If the same peo­ple who have dec­o­ra­tions up show re­spect on that par­tic­u­lar day (Nov. 11) and don’t con­tinue to put dec­o­ra­tions up on that day, I think that’s (al­right), so there are two sides of the coin to that story.”

In 2016, Gan­der, NL., coun­cil voted to keep Christ­mas ad­ver­tis­ing out of stores un­til af­ter Nov. 11, even go­ing so far as to write the pre- mier and prime min­is­ter to so­licit sup­port for a mo­tion that was ul­ti­mately win­dow dress­ing.

The City of Strat­ford doesn’t have a pol­icy as to when city hall is dec­o­rated for Christ­mas. The lo­cal Busi­ness Im­prove­ment Area (BIA) and Civic Beau­ti­fi­ca­tion and En­vi­ron­men­tal Aware­ness Com­mit­tee (CBEAC) are in charge of snowflakes that adorn light stan­dards down­town and along Lake Vic­to­ria. Most ci­ties and towns in On­tario hold their Santa Claus pa­rade af­ter Nov. 11, but Lon­don’s is set for Nov. 10 this year.

“We’re not here to fight or com­pete with Santa Claus,” Ko­evoets said. “We cer­tainly wouldn’t want to do that. That gets you coal in your stock­ing if you’re not care­ful.” co­smith@post­media.com

TERRY BRIDGE/THE

Mem­bers of the Strat­ford Po­lice Pipes and Drums make their way into the Strat­ford Cen­tral gym dur­ing a Re­mem­brance Day cer­e­mony on Fri­day. For some, cel­e­brat­ing Christ­mas be­gins af­ter Nov. 11. For oth­ers, Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions and hon­our­ing vet­er­ans aren’t mu­tu­ally ex­clu­sive.

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