When we first moved to Montreal, I had no idea that the French language thing was going to be... a thing. I had lived in Toronto and Kingston, both still in Ontario, where French language seemed to be just this subject you took until you could drop it (and when you did, you dropped it right away). My friends who had lived in Montreal for their studies never talked about the language piece, so I never really thought much about it, until we moved here and I realized that all the street signs and store names and forms were in French...!
And I'm not going to lie: I really wrestled with this at first. Whenever people asked us about our move to Quebec, we'd say it felt like living in a different country, because as soon as we crossed the border, the signs became things we couldn't confidently pronounce. I think this language part made the move a little bit harder and more of a transition than I thought it would be; I really did feel some days quite discouraged because job searching was difficult, or I didn't know how to ask where popcorn was in the grocery store, or I couldn't understand what someone was saying to me without a really long pause. I think I felt like I didn't and couldn't belong because I couldn't communicate fluently in French, and it felt like this barrier between me and this city.
And some days I still feel that way and a little discouraged about my grasp of the language, but other days I feel really amazed and thankful that we get to live in a city that has this curious and very cool mix of languages and cultures, and how that unfolds all these really neat creative possibilities and creates a special niche. I love that there's an appreciation here of a mixing between things because that's what this city feels to me: people bring their own backgrounds and cultures and experiences and they become blended, not in a way that makes what they bring to the table disappear, but in a way that celebrates the past and the present, the old and the new.
So I think that's where this year's Christmas cards grew out of: this desire to celebrate and embrace the bilingual nature of this city, and really, how that reflects Canada as a multilingual, multicultural place. I've only lived in Toronto, Kingston, and Montreal in Canada, but it feels like there's this wider movement across Canada to learn to celebrate different backgrounds and languages and cultures and people. As someone who feels like a mix of cultures (more on that another day!), I wanted some of my Christmas cards this year to be a mix of English and French, even as my own way of expressing that yes, Montreal, I'm actually really glad to get to say Merry Christmas in French too, as well as English.
Now, I find that the the bilingual-ness of Montreal is part of what makes this city so charming and unique. People often say that Montreal feels really different from the rest of Canada because it has this lovely European flair, but I think the roots of that come from the really interesting history of this city, including the mix of the French and English language. Montreal really has its own blended culture, and I think I'm learning to appreciate it and embrace it more. I love the people I've met here and the blend that it is, and I look forward to learning more and more about this city.
I also really wanted to create Christmas cards, specifically, that helped me reflect on what it means to appreciate and celebrate this city and its bilingual-ness because I wanted it to speak to our present of living here in Montreal, but also the past in engaging in the history of Christmas. Christmas, to me, is about celebrating what's happened in the past, the present, but also what's to come. It's about celebrating the baby Jesus who came to save and to give us a way to God that we might fully live now, but also so that we might live in His city to come, an even better and even greater city that will be filled with people of all different stories, whose stories will have a new beginning in this city of God. So I want to appreciate this present city, knowing too that I await a better city, where we will be made new, where joy and gratitude and celebration are ever bountiful, ever present.
So with that said,
Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noël, and Happy Noël!
Just a quick note that this will be my last post of 2015! I'm planning some new things for this blog for 2016, so stay tuned to it! The plan is to post more regularly (ie. not just once a month...) and share a bit more of what accompanies me in my day to day, more of what I'm working on, and more of what I'm thinking, all on a regular basis. Looking forward to sharing this with you all and getting to work on this! Wooo!