Christmas in the Capital

<p>There were still Christmas crowds seeking last-minute gifts, but compared to earlier in the weekend, yesterday proved a Silent Night.</p>


Shopping rush slows as city churches ready for holiday services





Willow Sharp, 11, and Molly Drinnan, 8, rehearse yesterday with the Christ Church Cathedral girls’ choir. It’s Christmas Eve in the capital today, and from churches to malls, there will be a final buzz of activity as Ottawans prepare to greet the Silent Night, Holy Night that follows.

There were still Christmas crowds seeking last-minute gifts, but compared to earlier in the weekend, yesterday proved a Silent Night.

It seems the gifts are bought, the trees are trimmed, and most of Ottawa was settling in early yesterday to enjoy Christmas 2007.

At the downtown Rideau Centre mall yesterday, visitor Mandy Inglas was surprised at how the crowds had thinned since she arrived in Ottawa on Friday from Cobourg.

“It’s not so bad today, maybe everyone is done and getting ready for Christmas dinner,” she said.

At the Bayshore Mall, customer service representative Sarah Mantel also noted the change, saying the pre-Christmas Eve crush was small compared to the “mad house” of Friday and Saturday.

But while malls began to wind down yesterday, the city’s Christian churches were gearing up in anticipation of the celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth.

This evening, churches across Ottawa will be packed for Christmas Eve services. The Very Reverend Shane Parker, Dean of the Anglican Dioceses of Ottawa, rector of the Christ Church Cathedral, is expecting more than 700 people at two masses tonight.

“I think people are still drawn to celebrate Christmas in church in a significant way,” he said. “Easter and Christmas are still times when people still feel a sense of connection to their churches.”

Minister Cedric Pettigrew, interim at Gloucester Presbyterian, said he’s always amazed how the Christmas Eve mass is standing room only.

“It underlines the need for spirituality even though people may not attend church on a regular basis. It speaks about the seeking for spirituality,” he said.

Parker said many people find that church offers a sense of peace during the hectic shopping chaos, and a soothing counterbalance to the pumped up, popular culture depiction of the season.

“The reality is that for many people, Christmas is a really painful time of year,” he said. “So people can come to a service in a church at Christmas Eve and find that their broken heart is cared for.”

Among the glitter of the tinsel and the mounds of unwrapped gifts, the city’s Christians are urging Ottawans to remember the reason for the season.

“It’s about God becoming a human person and revealing Himself to us through Jesus, so that we can understand what the nature of God is,” Parker said.

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