Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas Cheer

December in Winnipeg. The shortness of the days. The crisp mornings and long twilight of the afternoons. It's a season of extremes. The holidays are a time I look forward to. For me this is a time of year where the focus is more about just getting together with people, renewing connections and catching up. Professionally it's my month of greatest extremes. December is usually quiet through the early part of the month and then a scurry of people wanting to get in while they are off work. It's also very nice to see people who visit from out of town. Some people make coming for a reading part of their holiday tradition!

In my own family the kids are grown, there's not a lot of presents to buy (other than for my Mother) and, thankfully, most of us have what we need. A few years ago we started putting the emphasis more on just getting together. I don't much relish the craziness of shopping. I also volunteer a bit around different community areas. I usually help decorate a community centre and other stuff.

For a lot of people this season is challenging. Maybe because there's so much thrown at us about how it OUGHT to be and it's easy to feel we have fallen short if we aren't living some sort of Hallmark card version of the season. Also we often see a lot of old patterns arise as we go "home for the holidays". I see a lot of struggle 'round this time of year, but I also see a lot of progress and hope.

One of the symbols of the season that I have come to have a different appreciation of is the little nativity scene my mother puts out every year. She often threatens to give it away and I always get antsy when she does. It's one of our little struggles but it means something to me. She bought it when she worked at Eaton's back when I was very little. Eaton's was an amazing big old department store in it's day. The toy land at Christmas was (in my memory) a huge otherworldly adventure. It didn't have the same feel as the big box stores of today. Amid all the over the top stuff that our family went through at Christmas time, the little nativity scene or "creche" as my mom calls it, is one of the few things still around.  The papier mache figures that have survived many moves and jostling. I think we lost a barnyard animal or two and St. Joseph has a chip on him. The year our basement flooded we found the box waterlogged. Mom very carefully unwrapped each figure and let them dry, they could have crumbled at the touch.

My mom always did her best to make Christmas special for us ( I have three older brothers). In the years when she was a single parent, working secretarial jobs and, for the last while as an inspector on an assembly line in a computer plant, she  did her best to keep things together. By the time I was about 13, my older brothers had moved out and it was just her and I for a few years. I remember one afternoon about this time in December, I was home alone after school and there was a knock at the door. A guy from the Christmas Cheer board was there with a hamper. I thought he must have the wrong address and told him so. He had our names and suggested I call my mom and check before going away. I called my mom at work and when she heard why there was a long pause and she said "it's not a mistake". I had not known at the time how hard some things were. Someone had submitted our name for that turkey.

What that little Nativity scene represents to me more than anything now, is endurance, survival and hope in times of challenge. I'm looking forward to spending time with my mother this holiday season, like the little creche, we've come through a lot.
I'm including a link, for those who may be interested, for the Christmas Cheer Board's website, it gives information on how you can donate and the good things they do;
Winnipeg's Christmas Cheer Board

In a few weeks the days get longer again. Whatever our individual spiritual beliefs and traditions, it is a time for renewal and appreciation of what we have, what we can share and what we are here to do. To all my friends and clients, best wishes of peace, comfort and joy and to a good new year, cheers!