Tradition? Tradition!


by Roxanne Tellier

Can we really be nearing the end of 2019? It seems like only yesterday that I was making excuses for not wanting to go out on New Year’s Eve! (I got a million of ’em… )

November and December have always been crazy busy months in my life; Halloween kicks off a slick slide thru November’s family birthdays, all the way to my own birthday on December 4, and then the multiple get togethers and dinners that lace the three weeks until Christmas itself.

Oh, I’m not complaining – it’s great to get together with family and friends in the spirit of the season. Still, it’s very different from my past, and the holidays I enjoyed as a child, when we could gather all of the aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews and meet at my Gram’s on Christmas Day.

That was then. These are the days of multiple marriages, and tiers of second, step, and adopted parents and siblings. 

I haven’t spent a Christmas Day with both of my kids and all of my grandkids – ever.  Yes, this is the modern world, and these are first world problems that we suffer in non-silence. Nonetheless, it does feel odd, and harder every year, to get into the spirit a good two weeks in advance of the big day, just because that’s the only time we can carve out for family that doesn’t conflict with commitments to work or friends.

Once it would have been a turkey, ham or tourtiere feast; today, with so many exclusionary diets, it is harder than ever to plan a meal that meets (or meats)  everyone’s special nutritional needs.

It’s also about the physical distance between us. Many of us have scattered with the wind in our pursuit of love or better opportunities, and it was ever thus. But distance and the costs of sending gifts across the miles means that I’ve stopped my old habit of seeking out ‘the perfect present,‘ and joined the ranks of those who send off my holiday greetings and gifts via special Amazon delivery, Groupon coupons and email. 

Instead of ‘dashing through the snow’ in search of cards and yet another body wash gift set from Shoppers Drug Mart, I’m letting my fingers – and my computer – do the walking.

That’s not all bad, you know. Oh, sure, there are reasons why we should be shopping locally, rather than online, but seriously – Americans spent $7.4 BILLION on online shopping on Black Friday alone this year. The war is over, like it or not.

I’ve always loved getting those thoughtful annual Christmas cards, especially if they come with a long letter updating family on what my relatives have accomplished or survived in the previous year, but seriously… you know that these missives, no matter how beautifully presented or well- intentioned, are headed for the recycling bin in a matter of weeks.

I do have one exception to that recycling rule; my daughter has been sending me a calendar adorned with seasonal photos of my grandkids since 2005, and I treasure and carefully store these since she began the tradition. And I can tell you.. hell hath no fury like a grandmother denied her calendar because Cara forgot to pick up a little something for the postman…. 

Traditions are good .. doing things over and over again just because that’s the way they’ve always been done is not my style. So many of the old holiday traditions no longer make any sense to me, never mind to people fifty years younger.

And really, celebrating Christmas on December 25th  wasn’t even a thing until around AD 350, when Pope Julius 1 decreed it as Santa‘s – I mean, Jesus’ – Big Day. 

We’ve only been giving gifts to the kiddies and each other at Christmas since the late 1800s. Before that, people rarely gave each other anything more than something small, handmade, or edible, and those gifts were exchanged at New Year’s. In fact, early North Americans settlers, like the Puritans, actually outlawed Christmas celebrations between 1659 and 1681.

Capitalism, big corporations like Coca Cola, and really effective advertising campaigns were the impetus for goading people to get with the gift giving, in the early 1900s.

In William B. Waitts book, The Modern Christmas in America; A Cultural History of Gift Giving, he writes that “The prescient among the nation’s businessmen saw that they could use the emerging custom of Christmas gift-giving to increase their sales. Ever since, they have moved purposefully to expand gift giving in America and have enjoyed the rewards of their effort.” 

This also focused attention on manufactured items, like bicycles, dolls, and vacuum cleaners, since these were items that could not be made at home.

Legend has it that the original candy cane came into existence around 1670,  when a choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral, in Cologne, Germany was trying to keep the kiddy choir quiet and docile during the long Christmas service.

The custom of kissing under the mistletoe came from the ancient Druids in the UK. They believed that mistletoe was sacred, lucky, and could make people more fertile. No worries here on that front.   

The Druids are also responsible for the original idea of having a holiday tree indoors. They would bring evergreen boughs into their temples as a symbol of everlasting life. It wasn’t until the 11th century that Christians began to include symbols of evergreen trees as a sign of peace and renewal.

So you see, traditions are mutable. What we thought was ‘just the way it has to be’ has changed and evolved over the years, just like every other part of our lives.

So it’s goodbye to the relatively old, and hello to the 21st century and a higher tech meant to make our lives easier. Fighting to retain what no longer makes sense just seems pointless.  

Some things continue to be relevant. My pioneer ancestors would have prepared themselves for winter by stockpiling food to keep them fed during bad weather, and I continue to do a certain amount of that as well. I know that inclement weather will keep me a little cloistered and housebound for the next four or five months, but I’ve got a hoard of goodies stashed away to soothe my impatience.

But all the rest, all the geegaws and frippery that was once thought to be integral to the season, I can do without. I can enjoy tales and movies of Christmases past, but I’m not gonna cry any tears over a lack of candles on a tree – especially considering that so many of the trees I’ll see in the next few weeks will be of the plastic variety.

Times change, people change. The joy of the holidays comes from our connection to each other, not from a devotion to the past.  

Enjoy those who choose to share their love and joy with you at the holidays. Family and good friends are precious, and irreplaceable.

Happy Holidays!

That’s Enough Winning, Thanks


by Roxanne Tellier

A summer, probably around 1982. A small town – might have been Guelph – and a touring rock band from Toronto with time on their hands …..

performer banned posterI think Performer was booked in for the back end of the week, the Thursday Friday Saturday, at a local bar. I just remember looking out into the crowd and spotting a bunch of dusty, hard-drinking, guys and gals who were loudly enjoying the show, whooping it up like a bunch of sailors on shore leave.

The guys in the band were the first to find out that the ‘circus’ was in town; a Conklin‘s offshoot, complete with rides, a midway filled with games of chance, and all the vomit-inducing festive fair fare you could dream of.

conklin show logo

With an invitation for the whole band and roadies to come and enjoy the entertainment gratis, we assembled at the crack of two p.m. in our best spandex and leathers to brave the sun and the crowds.

It was hot and sunny that day, so the corndogs and cotton candy weren’t sitting quite as well as hoped. That’s when the fatal decision was made – four of us would share a ride on the tea cup carousel.

How bad could that be, you ask? Well, when the ride wrangler realized he had ‘show biz royalty’ in his care, he prepared to show us exactly what his ride could do in the hands of a ‘professional.’

VAC-L-MAYFAIRPREVIEW-0507-004It was the longest and most horrible ride I’ve ever experienced. At first it was fun, but soon enough, the speed, and the herky jerky movement of the ‘cups’ had us all regretting everything we’d eaten, not just that day, but that week. Maybe that month.

We held on for dear life and prayed for the ride to stop.

That’s sort of like America these days.

trump laughingWhen Trump warned Americans that a vote for him would soon have them begging for all of the ‘winning’ to stop, I flashed back on that sunny, but ultimately nauseating, day in carnie hell, and knew exactly what was in store for the citizens of the Ew Ess of Eh.

That’s not the way it’s supposed to be, you know. The cynical like to tell you that all politicians are the same, that ‘the left wing and the right wing still come from the same bird,‘ but that’s a lot of fancy mouth dancing to cover up the fact that we’ve somehow corrupted our politics to the point where too many are no longer aware that politics is the circus, and we are the rubes they’re here to fleece.

America is not so greatWas it always like this? Were all previous politicians just as crooked as the group we now have to choose from? I can’t believe that is true – if all previous governments had been as rapacious as this lot, there wouldn’t be a country left with resources so rich that it’s treasury was a lure to these shysters.

This kind of political deception is the end product of years of trickery, of sneaky, backroom deals, and the selective reading of scholarly documents that prove that the devil really IS in the details.

And that the right wing is very often not at all right.

 

Show me one election of the last decade or so, where you sincerely held a strong belief that the election of this person and this person in particular, would benefit the lives of you and most of the citizens of your country. It’s far more likely that your past votes were actually cast against another politician – that’s what we did when Harper lost and Trudeau was installed. That’s what it seems an awful lot of people did when they chose Ford over Wynne or even Horwath in the last Ontario provincial election.

And how’s that buck a beer thing working out for you so far, FordNation?

ford pig throne beer

In America, a large quantity of citizens who felt that they had been used, abused and forgotten in capitalism’s race to the finish, voted for a conman who embodied the complete antithesis of everything they claimed to have loved and believed in, as a nation, since 1776.

And an even larger quantity of citizens decided they’d just sit this ride out.

These elections bear no relationship to those halcyon days when we actually believed our chosen leaders would .. well.. lead. Instead, they have all the charm of a loveless marriage entered into just to show an ex-lover, in the cruelest way possible, that you never really loved or needed them in the first place.

That’s not winning either.

Do you wonder why the general tenor of political thinking ranges from the white hot rage of the pundits, to the stupor of the larger group of potential voters who just want to be left alone with their belief that their vote has no effect on how their country is run?

Are you sick of ‘winning’ yet?

Those people whom we are meant to respect and obey have asked us to believe so very many lies. And for the most part, the majority of us were happy to do so, and to defend the right of those with money and power to tell us those lies, and to tell us how to think.

alex jonesThe world changed a couple of decades ago, when computers became ubiquitous, and for better or worse, our ability to confirm or deny what we’ve been told has led to some pretty interesting confrontations. What exactly IS fake news, and will you know it when you see it?

This could be a time when, with access to all of the world’s combined information, we could aspire to become a race of super intelligent people, capable of quickly seeing through the flimflam artists and cutting through the jibber jabber of the fast talking cons peddling high tech snake oil.

Instead, there are still far too many people rushing to throw their money, hearts and minds into the gaping maws of these stealers of dreams.

But Spring is coming to America, and with it, another opportunity for people to see their world with fresh eyes. Those midterm winds blew a lot of brand new Democrats into Congress, and with a little luck, the Republican party may soon find out that, what goes around, comes around.

Sadly, it may be many more years before we see the extent of all the ‘winning’ that Doug Ford has planned for the province of Ontario.

And it looks like we don’t get to get off of this ride until he’s done.

doug ford

 

Weather or Not We’re Together


I don’t want to startle anyone … but there’s been quite a lot of blue in the sky lately, and there’s this big yellowy orange ‘ball’ up there as well ….  and it’s been getting kind of warmer, too. Should I worry?

Oh lawdy .. could Spring be nearing? It’s felt like years since looking out the window promised anything but snow and a hulking grey sky crouched like a monstrous beast over the rooftops. I have seen the hazy shade of winter, and I’m well  and truly over it.

Hey … it’s true … we had a mere 48.8 hours of sunlight in January. Even the seasonal average of 85 hours for the month of January sucks, but we got almost half of that! Now that we’re sneaking up to March, these warmer and sunnier days are feeling like a trailer for what’s to come.

The weather has always had an enormous affect on our psyches. It’s why we want to run away to somewhere tropical during the winter, or why some of us develop Seasonal Affective Disorder that is helped only by artificial sunlight. It’s a real thing.  The lizard brain craves sun and warmth.

Don’t take my word for it; Terry Jacks told us years ago that to have joy and fun, we needed seasons in the sun. Were you not paying attention? Did you not believe Terry Jacks?!?!?

human_fingerprints_450Now, I’m not gonna go off on a rant here, about global warming, and whether or not it’s caused by human activity. For one thing, it’s too nice a day to argue. It was 11 degrees yesterday, and it’s nearly 10 degrees today already; seriously, not wasting my time on deniers. Mama wants to gambol where flowers will soon be.

And anyone who’s still hanging on to their denial ..well, they’re probably too far gone to reach anyway.

But you do have to wonder if part of the refutation of climate change stems from our unconscious knowledge of weather’s effect on our psyches. The uncertainty, the rapid changes that have occurred to the planet as we heat it up – all this troubles our equilibrium, that has learned, by observation and over time, what to expect at given periods of the year. If it’s January in Toronto, there should be snow and cold. If, in February, some dude shows up to a bar looking comfortable in shorts and a wife-beater tee, you’re going to do a double take.

Remember the good old days, when 2014 was the hottest year on record? Then 2015 took first spot? Well, now 2016 has that distinction. And as we get closer to the summer of 2017, it might be prudent to be worried about what heights we’ll hit this year.

Australia‘s already in summer – and it is scary down there. The temps are way out of control, reaching highs in the mid 40s (mid 110s in Fahrenheit) in some places. Australia’s DailyTelegraph.com recently did an in-depth special news feature proving how much hotter the continent has gotten, and speculating on what further heights were in the future.  Will Canada have that to look forward to as well?

I can’t think about that now; life is short, and so am I. All I know is that spring is coming, which means I can finally ditch the thermal socks and long johns. I don’t care how cute and colourful they make flannel pyjamas, those pjs are never gonna inspire anything but sneezles and wheezles. A girl .. shoot, even an old lady! … wants to feel wild and free, not bound by heavy down-stuffed coats and sensible slippers.

Bring on the sun, and crank up the tunes, baby!

No matter our age, we need that good, good sunshine to make us feel alive. I could go into all the benefits of sensible sun-seeking, with multiple annotated reminders to wear sunscreen, but .. hell no. I want me some sun, and I want it now!

I am more than ready to pack away the sweaters and boots and let t-shirts and strappy sandals back into my life. I know, I have to wait a few months more before warm becomes norm … but I’m good with that, as long as dreamy summer nights and patios are in my future. I want to sip a smart cocktail in 75 degree weather, face gently kissed by the sun, as I sit and watch the world go by. Is that so much to ask? Would you deny me that?

Spring is around the corner, and those lazy, hazy days of summer will be upon us in good time. Here’s hoping that the promise of blue skies, and hot fun in the summertime, keeps us relatively unscathed through the next few turbulent months. I’m jonesing to morph my obsession with politics into a passion for maintaining good tan lines and the taking of long walks on the beach when the moon is in the seventh house …

But for now … let the sun shine in!

 

Snu


Can’t complain – the weather was worse in November than December. I didn’t miss the snow at all on Christmas. And the first thing I did on New Year’s Day was look out the window, and cry out for joy at the lack of whiteness.

But all good things must come to an end, and today, alas … there is a smattering, a dusting even, of powder. New Snow. Snu.    light snowI lived in Alberta as a child, and 12 foot drifts of snow were not uncommon. I trotted off to school in below zero weather wearing knee socks. It was a ‘dry cold,” they said.Neige_Montreal

As a mini skirted teen in Montreal, my thighs were perpetually red and chapped from the damp snow and winds. We slogged thru the slush and dug our toys and pets and cars out of the billowy white blanket of snow, snow and more snow.

One of the draws that brought me to Toronto in 1976 was the fabled meagre toronto snow1976snowfall. It seemed every photo of Toronto in winter featured a parade of jacketless men and women delicately high stepping through barely an inch of the white stuff. Could it be? Did people in Toronto not even own snow boots? Lured by that promise, I started a new life in the Big Smoke.

shorts in Toronto winter

And for a decade or two, it did seem that Toronto was the Promised Land for a winter hater like myself. Proportionately, there was definitely less snow than in Quebec, and the people pretended politely that the snow was of no consequence. Many fellows affected long shorts throughout the year, whatever the temperature. Toronto snubbed its nose at winter; if you pretended it wasn’t happening, maybe it would go away.

But, alas – all good things come to an end. The late 90’s and early 2000’s held a wintry nip in the air, and in 2013, we had an Ice Sicestorm 2013torm of epic proportions that brought the city to its knees for nearly a week. It had begun. My winter days in Toronto were numbered. Climate change will chase me out of Ontario.

Where to next? How far can this delicate flower run to escape the winter blues? I’m waiting for a gentle breeze to waft me away from this land of snu … Bermuda beach