Noisy Polish Christenings

The Toronto World, May 23, 1912.

The Toronto World, May 23, 1912.

I tumbled onto this gem of an article a few months back while hunting around in old issues of the Toronto World. Taken from the May 23, 1912 issue of the World, it highlights a curious episode on the road to Toronto’s gradual acceptance of multiculturalism: residents of Humber Bay complaining about the raucous Polish celebrations taking place by the Humber River. “During the past few months,” says the article, “every sunday has been the day of prolonged celebrations among the foreigners, which invariably take the form of much disorderliness, the beating of tin pans, shouting, and drinking of beer.”

From this brief source it is difficult to know what is really going on here. One’s instinct is to chastise the fun-hating folks of the Toronto-the-Good era, but without more detail this seems unfair.

Still, though, it is intriguing to juxtapose this with the modern-day Toronto phenomenon of World Cup victory celebrations, which I wrote about in my most recent Historicist column. Although I focused more on the happier side of the growth of Toronto World Cup celebrations (as opposed to clashes between rival fans), I by no means cherry-picked; the Toronto media seems to have generally heralded the emergence of this regular tradition in the 1970s as a positive affirmation of the city’s diversity, even if several reporters to invoking national stereotypes to do it.

One thought that kept running through my head while researching, though, was how the city’s embracing of its multiculturalism is a more recent phenomenon than I previously realized. Although I could trace World Cup celebrations in Toronto back to 1970, by all accounts it was the huge Italian celebration of 1982 (the year of my birth) which established victory street parties as a tradition. I can’t imagine Toronto without ubiquitous flags and honking during World Cup time, but to those a generation before me, the emergence of local interest must have been baffling.

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