by Lara Gladych –
Seaside Magazine wants to live up to our slogan of being “the voice of the Saanich Peninsula,” so, in every issue, we’ll be asking people to answer a question. We’re looking for responses from all ages and across the diverse neighbourhoods that form our community.
In imagining the multitude of ways to finish the sentence “It wouldn’t be Christmas without [blank],” I am pressed to pick a single word or idea.
It wouldn’t be Christmas without Christ. So much of what we practise in December, be it religious or secular, stems from biblical origins and the religious significance of the day.
In my mind’s eye what I see immediately when I think of Christmas are the decorations: the tree and ornaments, the lights, the wreaths and boughs, hand-made children’s crafts brought home from school, and the religious symbols and manger scenes.
Then there’s the food: Christmas dinners, the baking, cookies exchanged with and gifted to loved ones, and all the celebratory gatherings of family and friends around food and drink.
We can’t forget the music: carols, Christmas and holiday songs, and the traditional hymns. For my dad it wasn’t Christmas without listening to Handel’s Messiah. The movie classics, such as It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Carol, and all the animated children’s favorites, are also wonderful pieces of an intricate picture.
For me, the perfect Christmas playlist is what I can’t imagine not having. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel can still move me to tears. A decorated tree adorned with lights and a room full of candlelight are the crowning markers, and above all else, it just wouldn’t be Christmas without my husband and kids, and the magic I still see in my children’s eyes. These things put together fill me with the spirit of Christmas.
Twelve people I spoke with in Sidney, one beautiful evening in November, said that it wouldn’t be Christmas without family.
“Family. I’m not the best person to ask. My husband died just a few months ago, so this Christmas isn’t going to be the same for me,” said Penny, 79. I asked her who she will lean on the most this coming holiday season. “I’m going to Calgary to be with family, so I’m really looking forward to that. Family is very important.”
In keeping with the value of family, “My children” is how both Pat, 80, and Sharon, 65, answered this question.
“Before we had kids, Christmas wasn’t that exciting. It’s a lot more fun now that we have kids.” This was Rebecca, age 40.
Helen, 53, was one of those who said family, “but that’s obvious.” She expanded: “my husband’s cooking, and entertaining, having friends over for drinks. I love decorating the lounge.”
Seven people I spoke with responded that snow is what makes Christmas perfect. Perhaps it is its somewhat rare appearance here that makes it all the more magical for us Islanders. Coming from northern Ontario, I can attest to the nostalgic wonder I feel every time we have a snowfall, especially over Christmas.
Jeff, who is 60, agreed with me that the lights are one of the most magical parts of the season. And on a grander scale, Kristi, 40, mentioned a visit to Butchart Gardens to take in the Magic of Christmas lighting spectacular – along with some ice skating.
Lara, 45, said that what she loves most about the season is the time we spend thinking of others, and all the different forms this takes in the lead up to Christmas Day.
Rhys, 20, chimed in with “eggnog,” and “Christmas Eve” was Daniel’s answer. He’s 21.
Dean, 77, shares my love of the music of the season. She couldn’t do without the carols, and I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas is her favourite.
My good friend Alison, 48, passed by, and she had some wonderful answers, all centering around tradition. She, too, loves visiting the Gardens, but also mentioned the Sidney parade, all the annual parties to attend throughout the season, and crafts made with the kids.
Two of the youngest little people I interviewed came up with some very sweet responses. Piper, who is four, told me that she must have a Christmas tree, and six-year-old Abigail can’t imagine not having a present.
It was Don, 39, who was the only one to mention Santa Claus as the quintessential element of Christmas.
And coming full circle, dear Robert, 84, replied with “Jesus. Jesus is the reason for the season.”
I like these words from Bob Hope, that remind us that the magic isn’t in the grandeur of the festivities, but in something smaller: “When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things – not the great occasions – give off the greatest glow of happiness.” May you find your glow this season.