My parents weren't ones for dancing, however I saw my mother do a wee dance nearly 50 years ago when she and I were decorating the Christmas tree; her on the right and me on the left.
Suddenly, she was face first into the tree, shaking it so much I thought she was going to take it for a spin around the floor. In seconds it stopped. All the commotion had me ask " Mother, what are you doing"? Her reply, "I was checking a bulb and didn't see a bit of tinsel in the socket and got a shock". The tree hid my muted, hunched-up shoulders laugh at mother's self-inflicted Taser like jolt. Shocking son! No harm done, thank God.
Finding the burnt-out bulb in those old sets took some joy out of Christmas. Thankfully, an electrical genius eliminated that hunt. Now, LED lights have taken bulb life to a whole new level, but they just don't give the tree that warm incandescent glow. As for the, once really popular, tinsel, it's not to be seen.
Seen everywhere though are artificial trees. In 1970, single and living alone, in a basement apartment in Toronto, I tried to put one together. But I found it too frustrating and too junky looking, so I threw it out. Nowadays, artificial trees are quite impressive. GRAND Toyota on the TCH has a dandy, gigantic one.
Christmas trees made of non biodegradable PVC plastic tend to be manufactured in China and have a carbon footprint of over 10,000 kms to get here. Our Christmas tree's carbon footprint involves a 10 kms trip across the bridge behind the ghostly mill and up Chipper Road to cut down the first appealing - totally biodegradable - spruce tree. Once home it's in the living room in a 50-year-old homemade stand, until Old Christmas Day, Jan. 6.
For Catholics a sure sign of growing up was permission to attend midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. We have had a young family for years, so I attended Mass in the morning. Meanwhile, Christmas Eve is always busy...dressing to make and the turkey to get oven ready. And as the Elf of Dunn Place, around midnight, I normally help Santa to unload his sleigh, ho, ho, ho.
After midnight Mass or in the morning who greets each other with Happy Holidays or Seasons Greeting? Yeech! Merry Christmas goes well with Christmas time, and not just Christmas Day, thank you very much. Happy Holidays, leave it for summer vacations.
A non-Christmas greeting is so American, much like the comics character, Jiggs, whose favourite meal - corned beef and cabbage - became known as a Jiggs dinner. And, supposedly, American servicemen stationed here started calling our boiled dinner, a Jiggs dinner. Never heard such a name growing up. And likewise at Christmas, never heard of mummers - only jannies.
If it's a real Jiggs dinner you want at Christmas, you may be lucky to find a pack of corned beef in our stores. However, tons of salt beef and riblets are sold here, year round. Watered over night they are the base for a boiled dinner of peas pudding, turnip, cabbage, carrots and potatoes all boiled up in the pot.
Our Christmas vegetables will be from Wooddale with the savory and onions from my own garden. No figgy duff, no parsnips, no
doughboys, no onions boiled up in the pot for us. And of course roasted turkey, gravy and pickled beets. Some good! And a toast to you and yours, whatever your Christmas dinner will be.
A boyhood memory is hundreds of children of mill workers at the Armoury for a Christmas party. We must have been noisy. But we were much quieter as our schools went to the theatre for the joy of watching an all cartoons show and be given a bag of goodies on our way home. It was sponsored by the first mill owners, the AND Company, but later sponsored by Charlie Edwards, the theatre owner, with the treats donated by High Street merchants.
Christmas is a repetition of welcomed traditions be it watching old movies like Scrooge, listening to Mario Lanza's Christmas carols, attending Christmas concerts, parties or even going to church. You only have to speak to someone to find out the many different ways people celebrate the merriment of the season.
In the early 1950's, big families and modest incomes meant that Christmas treats were really special. But even now with the big incomes and small families, Christmas treats such as fruit cake, cherry cake or pickled eggs show up only for the festive season.
Synonymous with Christmas time is the special effort made to visit family and friends far and near, sharing news, stories,
laughter and good cheer. As well, people tend to be more compassionate and caring for those in need, a bit of a reprieve from the over obsession with bloated consumerism.
This Christmas all of ours, except one and her family, will gather around the hearth one more time. Great joy! Others I know will celebrate the joyous season with their family while they are home from a job rotation - offshore or out of the province. And some will travel to Goose Bay, New Brunswick, Connecticut and Tennessee to spend Christmas with a family member.
And lastly, for some, this Christmas is the first one with a family member recently deceased. A special peace to all those feeling that most grievous pain.
Merry Christmas to you all. And may the New Year, as the Irish say, see the sun shine on your face and rain fall gently on your back.
Andy Barker at firstname.lastname@example.org