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THOMPSON: Celebrating the Christmas holidays

November 27, 2017 - 12:00 PM

 


OPINION


I love Christmas. I did as a child…and nothing’s changed as I approach my 67th holiday season. It isn’t one single thing about the holidays. Rather, it is the entire experience…and this year it starts 27 days before Christmas Day. The Monday after American Thanksgiving signals the Christmas holidays for me and that is…today.

While shopping malls seem to hang Christmas decorations as soon as the Halloween decorations come down, that’s a bit early for me. But, you know, I don’t stomp on others’ dreams or joy…so if you want to string Christmas lights in July…that’s okay.

There’s a lot to love about Christmas…and it’s probably a little different for each of us. Childhood has everything to do with how we define the holiday season. Things we do become fast traditions…special dinners, special decorations, types of tree, opening presents in pajamas and robes…even the kind of lights.

It matters not to me whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah or Eid Al-Fitr or Festivus…there’s room for everyone’s observances…from religious to secular. I give people a wide berth on celebrating whatever they want to celebrate. For me it’s Christmas…and while not a heathen…historically I’ve missed more church services than I’ve made.

The lights are where it starts for me. There’s something about sparkling lights that simply make me feel good…happy.  My family strung coloured lights on the tree…always a Fraser Fir. And we used tinsel…lots of it. I remember as a child sipping hot chocolate and squinting at the tree - presents underneath - with only the colourful lights burning. That was Christmas to me.

There was never a white Christmas in my youth. It was, after all, Florida…and it took a powerful imagination to see snow among the palm trees. Besides, temperatures were usually better suited to shorts and flip flops than heavy coats and a toque.

Most of my childhood traditions remain…but I’ve adapted some. As an adult I lived in northern climes…and I was drawn to smaller white lights on the tree…still a Fraser Fir. I think the white lights look more wintry. These days, I sip on a heavily spiked egg nog…and still squint at the tree…blurring the lights. Ah, it’s still Christmas.

I’ve given up on hanging tinsel…too many cats over the years…all of whom had an amazing propensity for eating the damn stuff. Those of you who have experienced chasing a cat fresh from his box…a fresh dropping trailing along behind him know why the tinsel tradition died.

I love driving past elaborately decorated homes…knowing that the families inside are celebrating their own traditions. And Christmas music…I love the songs, too. Everything from Bing Crosby’s iconic “White Christmas” to Eartha Kitt’s slightly naughty - at least in 1953 - “Santa Baby” fills me with delight.

Of course, the holidays wouldn’t be the same if I didn’t watch - again, with heavily-spiked eggnog in hand - my favourite Christmas movies. I never get tired of them. I watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street” and “Holiday Inn” every year. You can give me a line from any of these flicks and I can likely give you back the lines that follow.

Likewise, it’s hard to beat simply sitting in front of a crackling fireplace…where’s that egg nog?
And there’s nothing better than baking and decorating your favourite Christmas cookies…often with help from grandchildren…even if it takes twice as long.

Every day should be about being kind and helping others…especially those less fortunate.
And Christmas seems to heighten that sense of caring. Greeting others with a smile and a cheery, “Happy Holidays” makes me feel better and I hope them, too. I don’t no how many bell-ringing  Santas I pass during the holidays…but I love giving what I can so others can smile.

Of course, it’s about presents under the tree, too. I love finding them, wrapping them and giving them. And who doesn’t like a little something in their chimney stocking?

And last but certainly not least…it’s about the food and wine. We’ll have a house full of kids and grandkids this year. We all love good food…and everything Canadian and American…so it’s a fun few days.

I do a Turducken every year for Christmas dinner…a boned out chicken stuffed inside a boned-out duck inside a boned-out turkey…stuffed with Andouille sausage dressing. Yes, there’s all the trimmings, too, from homemade cranberry-orange relish to English Trifle. Those oversize Christmas sweaters come in handy.

Above all, nothing beats being around friends and family for the holidays. This year on Christmas Eve my family - ten adults and children - are going on a long sleigh ride in the afternoon. We’ll get back and eat my homemade chilli and sit in front of the fire…drinking a little, laughing a lot, telling stories about each other we’ve all heard many times and simply spending a gloriously great time together.

My wish for you as you read this…is that your holiday season is filled with friends and family, good health and great good times. Enjoy!

– Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines.  His essays are a blend of news reporting and opinion.


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