Easterish


by Roxanne Tellier

My mother loved holidays – any and all celebratable occasions. She was the Holiday Fairy, sprinkling her magic dust on us, and making special days even more memorable with her joy and enthusiasm.

A talented poet, she made our childhood Easter mornings into a treasure hunt. My sister and I would wake to riddles, clues that hinted to where our candy and chocolate had been left by the Easter Bunny.

We didn’t have a lot of money, and chocolate was a luxury we rarely enjoyed. Easter and Halloween were occasions of great joy for sugar loving kids like my sister and I. 

One year my godmother sent me an enormous chocolate bunny that was taller than I was! We ate chocolate until we could eat no more, and then mum said it would be kind to share what was left with our neighbours.  I went up and down the street with a bowl filled with broken chocolate pieces, doling out the goodies, and veering between feeling like Lady Bountiful and a kid having qualms about the giving away of her precious chocolate.

Those were the days when everyone dressed up for special occasions, and thankfully, mum was a genius on the sewing machine. Although I could be counted on to appear in public bandbox neat and clean, I have to admit I wasn’t the happiest of campers when mum regularly made Jodi and I wear matchy matchy outfits.  

Having a sister younger by five years meant that I spent a lot of time pretending to believe in things like Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy andthe Easter Bunny. (Both the TF and the EB, by the way, have been officially declared ‘essential businesses’ during this Covid 19 plague.)

In Edmonton, I went to Academie Assomption, a Catholic, all girl school run by nuns. From grade three until grade six, when we left for Montreal, I learned how to survive the forty days of Lent. We would have to give up the things that gave us ‘pleasures of the flesh,’ and we had to do it with good grace and a willing heart, or – like a birthday wish spoken aloud – our sacrifice would be null and void. Forty days without candy! Forty days without teasing your siblings! Forty days of obeying your parents without talking back! Oh it was hellish, suffering such deprivation, and the days passed so slowly. But eventually, yes! We were paroled Easter Sunday morning, and got to enjoy a rare sugar overdose.

Along with the forty days of jonesing for sugar, my school classes would practice the hymns that we would be singing in church on the Big Day. “He is Risen!”  we chorused, our sweet voices rising with Him to the heavens.  

In Montreal I continued singing those hymns, first in Latin, later in English and eventually, in folk music form. I was part of that folk mass crew that tried to make going to church ‘groovy’ in the sixties. Actually, it was in the sixties that some of the best ‘Religious Rock’ was written and enjoyed.

Due to some – ahem – infractions I had been caught committing, my teenaged butt had been severely grounded in 1969. I had the choice of staying in my room ‘for the rest of your life!’ or joining our church’s youth group, which met regularly in the church basement.  

It was in that basement that I learned how to play pool, and where I danced with a male for the first time; with Father Sauvé, to Cream’s White Room. It was there that I became a part of the group that performed at the Sunday folk masses, and eventually, through some of the people that I met in those days, formed my first folk rock group, with a convenient venue already in place for our performances.

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, there were many songs that crossed from the radio to the pews.  It wasn’t just songs like Ocean’s Put Your Hand in the Hand that kept our folk masses humming; we were about to enter a time when religious rock would go mainstream.

Easter of 1970, the church group had bought into a new fad – fasting for a cause. The kids from my school and church decided we’d do a sponsored fast for 24 hours, and donate any money raised to the church. Soon, all of us were camped out in the church basement with our sleeping bags, stuffed animals, and guitars.

(As we all hunker down in our bunkers, riding out this virus and keeping our social distances, I’m so often grateful that I’m not a 15-year-old kid, high on life, and bursting with hormones. I’m even more grateful that I’m not a parent having to deal with that kid while trying to avoid getting ill. There aren’t all that many benefits of aging – but knowing how to keep oneself busy while in isolation is surely one of them.)

But – back to the fast.  

So, twenty-four hours without food. An unimaginable torture to a bunch of kids ranging in age from 14 to 21. After flirting with each other for the first five or six hours, we started to get antsy. Some of us were crying, lonesome for our families. All of us could hear our bellies crying out for sustenance. And into this sea of overexcited teenagers waded Father Sauvé… with a big brown box filled with 33 1/3 records.

The basement, which was also the church’s rec centre and Saturday night dance hall, was set up for the playing of recorded music. When Father Sauvé dropped the needle on side one of the new rock musical, “Jesus Christ Superstar,” we all quieted and listened to the overture of what would become the first and most successful, religious rock opera.

I thrill, even as I listen to this overture this morning. At 15, and as a young woman who desperately wanted to be a professional vocalist, I was completely and utterly gobsmacked. 

50 years later, I still know every note and every word to every song of the entire opus.

I’m not the only one who felt that way; I remember reading in 2010 that another Canadian singer had had the same sort of fascination with the musical, but that she had actually done something about her lifelong obsession.

Peaches, the diminutive dynamo of raunchy electronic rock, was singing the entire libretto alone, just as she will in her one-woman show, “Peaches Christ Superstar,” which was to begin its North American tour on Friday in Boston.

As she sang her way from the Last Supper to Jesus’ trial before Pilate, Peaches cycled through nearly every character from the Gospels, embodying them in her voice and face: a dainty, mocking Herod; a guttural Caiaphas, the high priest; and a bruised Judas hurling insults at Jesus so heatedly that it raised the veins in Peaches’ ruddy face.” The New York Times, December 2010

I don’t think about Easter much these days. Time and events have left me irreligious and agnostic. And we’re so oblivious of the days during Covid that we even forgot to buy milk yesterday, when the stores were open between the Good Friday/Easter Sunday sandwich of shutdowns.   

But still – this Easter, and as I have done every Easter for fifty years, I will search out my copy of Norman Jewison’s wonderful version of the musical, and once again relive how the music made me feel, all those years ago.

Hey! Here’s some good news! If you missed the live 2018 version featuring John Legend – or if you just enjoyed it so much, you’d like to see it again … you’re in luck!

“NBC just announced that they will air an encore presentation of the 2018 production of Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert this Sunday — Easter Sunday — April 12, 2020. The performance will air from 7:00-9:30 PM (ET/PT) on the NBC channel, as well as on select streaming services that offer live television, e.g. Hulu + Live TV or YouTube TV.”

Enjoy!

And … Happy Easter to YOU!

P.S. – Via my cousin Rita Donovan … food for thought .. the other side of isolation ….

Ho Ho Holiday Memories!


by Roxanne Tellier

“Rockin’ around the Christmas tree, at the Christmas party hop.”  “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!” Oh NOes! Must be getting close to the holidays – the earworms are out in full force!

Here comes Christmas 2019. Before you know it, it will be a bright and shiny new 2020! Let’s hope that 2020 applies to our vision, rather than to our hindsight.

I’ve got a holiday gathering to go to this afternoon, and every year, it takes me a little longer to get ready to be serially hugged. But one of the perks of having written a weekly column for many years is that, now and again, we can reach back into those past ponderings and re-release them into the present, dusted off, re-edited, and ready to be digested anew.

For your Christmas reading, wonderment and wandering …. a few morsels from my past holiday tables …

Originally published December 14, 2014 – Zombie Christmas

Zombies love shopping on Black Friday .. Deals!

It’s lurching toward you … the days tick by, and you rock between anticipating and dreading the upcoming holiday season. You’re looking forward to seeing friends and family, but wonder how you’ll juggle all that you still have to do to get ready for the Big Day.

The pressure is on to try and create a meaningful experience that will leave everyone – including yourself – with lasting memories of “goodwill towards men,” exemplified by overeating and overspending, but you can already envision how exhausted you will be, and what the credit card balances are going to look like in January. 

It’s beginning to look a lot like a zombie Christmas …. 

I remember the year that I realized that Christmas presents were to be both given AND received. That was a shocker. My mum gave me a whopping $5.00 to spend on the family, and I trotted down to the Army and Navy Stores in downtown Edmonton. I bought gifts for everyone one the list; GrandMere and GrandPere, my aunt Noella, my sister, and my parents, and STILL had change jingling in my pocket on the way home. I was proudest of the perfume I had bought for my mother – Max Factor’s finest .. Sophisticat

The best Christmases are the ones that center on the very young or the very old. It’s impossible not to smile at the look of awe on a child’s face as he or she approaches Santa’s throne, grubby list in a damp, clenched hand, gathering up the courage to sit on the venerable old gentleman’s knee, and whisper their most secret wishes. Still believing in Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick, still believing that anything is possible, that magic can happen. That innocence is gone so soon. 

Somewhere along the way, most of us go from true believers to frantic shoppers, desperate to find that perfect gift for our perfect someone, forgetting what the holiday season should really mean. We become Christmas Zombies, lurching through the malls, snatching up the toys and goodies strewn before us, all part of the multi-billion dollar industry that corporations count on to fatten their bottom line.

When, really, it’s all about the festive spirit, whether you call this festivity Christmas, or Hanukah, the winter solstice or Saturnalia, Festivus or Kwanza. It’s about the smell of holiday baking, the taste of buttery shortbread, and the eggnog spiked with a drop of rum, the cold raw scent of a Douglas pine, the twinkling porch lights that glow beneath a soft layer of fresh snow, the sound of carols and the snow crunching under your boots. Spending time with friends and family, making happy memories, not of senseless consumerism, but of this glorious feast for the senses.

originally published December 13, 2015 – Christmas and Snowbound in the Treasured Past

My mum embodied the Spirit of Christmas. She loved everything about the holiday, and she made every one of my childhood Christmases as merry and bright as she could. 

She’d grown up in the depression – she knew Christmas wasn’t about money. When times were tough, she’d tell us it would be a “Hoodoo McFiggin” year – that meant the only presents would be things she had to buy us anyway, just to keep us clothed and fed – underwear, socks, boots. Presents were lovely, but some years, presents could wait. Christmas was about gathering with family, and sharing what we did have, and what we really had, enough to share, was love.

She just had so damn much joy and childlike belief in the season that it all came naturally through her to us … the breathless lead up that began months before, when she’d start asking my sister and I what we were going to ask for from Santa, and the admonition that we must be very sure of what we’d tell the Big Man when the day came … this was serious business! We were to name only one important item we really, really wanted. If there were other gifts, they would be of Santa’s choosing. We’d spend hours arguing over what toys were best, what we really wanted, and we’d change our minds a zillion times before our visit to Santa’s Kingdom.

Nor were the needs of others to be forgotten. We’d be given a small amount of money, and a list of those we needed to delight with thoughtful gifts. It’s extraordinary how far $5.00 could go back in the sixties. We would have been mortified to not have a gift to give to any of the family who had brought a gift for us. Some years would find us digging through our own stash of precious things, in order to find something we could wrap quickly and present to an unexpected guest.

In the run up to the Day itself, we’d drag out the boxes of carefully packaged ornaments that Mum had collected through the years. She’d linger over the battered aluminum stars made from pie plates, reminding me that she and I had made those together, one year when I was very young, and recovering from the mumps. She’d carefully unwrap the fragile glass ornaments she’d had since she and dad first married, each colourful globe a warm memory. And she’d always linger over a set of orbs, some round, some tear-shaped, so transparent they reflected rainbows, so precious and delicate, “they’re like soap bubbles , Roxanne! Aren’t they beautiful?!”   

We had to have a real tree. She felt there was no point in having a tree if it didn’t come with that delicious smell, and the scratchy feel of pine needles under foot. The tree would find a place of honour in the dining room, and strict instructions about its care and watering were delivered. After the tree was set into the metal holder, she’d draw a bright red and sparkly cloth gently around the base, and then add puffs of ‘angel hair’ to make the tree look like it was floating on a cloud.

She’d drape the tree’s branches with long strands of tiny glass beads, the beads a little more worn every year, but shining nonetheless. The box of tinsel was precious too; after Christmas we’d gather as many of the used strands as we could and save them for the following year. We had two special toppers for the tree – one, a paper plate collage of an angel adorned with cotton batting that I’d made in first grade, the other , a plastic doll dressed as an angel, it’s halo tipped jauntily to the left, a scratch of pen ink faintly visible on it’s cheek.

Christmas songs would be playing on the little record player, and we’d all sing along as we decorated. Jodi and I liked to make up new and naughty words to some of the classics, just to make mum laugh, before she’d chide us to “Behave! Santa hears and sees everything you do!”

Once the tree was up and decorated, we went into a two week hiatus, where the other 50 weeks of naughtiness were replaced by determined niceness. We’d wait breathlessly for the Christmas specials to appear on the TV; without video or DVD, you had to be home to see “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” or one of the other animated delights, most of which seemed to be Rankin Bass productions.  

There was also one special Christmas box that contained nothing but photos, recipes, newspaper clippings, song lyrics, and a few very treasured books. Our favourite to read and to have read to us was Erwin L. Hess’ Christmas and Snowbound in the Treasured Past,” a large full-coloured collection of holiday poems, stories, artwork and photos, from 1961.

“We remember our best Christmas.  A flashback appears and this favourite Christmas plays on a very special screen in a picture of color, and we see the scenes we remember so well.  Immediately our story we’ll begin to tell…It snowed early that year.  In those days the holiday spirit was in the air with the first fall of snow.  Sleigh bells jingled and that meant Christmas was near!” 

We loved that book; it epitomized an ideal Christmas, one that we’d never had, nor likely ever would. But it held a promise, so much so that the phrase, “Christmas and snowbound in the treasured past” became our family code for how we imagined paradise.

originally published December 20/2015  It’s the war on Christmas, Carol

As hard as it might be to imagine holiday songs battling it out, the plain fact is … Christmas songs mean big bucks. Over and over and over again. A Number One Christmas song can mean early retirement for the writer, with a nice pension income supplemented every year in December.

Sound cynical? Maybe. But it’s the reason why many writers and artists get their ho-ho-ho’s in gear in time to hit the December charts. Pop songs come and go; a classic holiday song lives forever. 

Picture “Jingle Bells” pummelling “Santa Claus is coming to town” a la UFC, though I would think songs like “The Christmas Song” and ‘Silver Bells” would never lower themselves to a fight. Perhaps they would slap each other’s little faces with their velvety gloves, and request a sunrise duel.

I tell you, the battles are real. In England, perhaps more so than anywhere else.

The furious fight for The #1 British Christmas Song first took shape in 1973. Three songs were vying for the top spot; “Step into Christmas” from Elton John, “I Wish That It Was Christmas Every Day” by Wizzard, and “Merry Christmas Everybody” by Slade. The numbers were close, and since these were the days before computers were commonplace, the tallying went on right up until the last moment. 

Slade

Elton stalled out at #36, while Slade and Wizzard held their collective breaths … Wizzard took a respectable 4th place, and it was Slade by an angel’s hair! It seems most Britons preferred their seasonal greetings shouted at them. Still, 40 plus years later, both songs continue to enrich their writers, and keep the British public dancing.

“”The Performing Right Society put out a statement saying Slade’s Merry Christmas is the most heard song in the world because royalties come in from more countries than for any other song. The estimate is that it’s been heard by 42% of the planet, more than 3 billion people, whether they wanted to hear it or not.” – Jim Lea, Slade.

Things settled down for the next decade, but by 1984, another battle caught the public’s attention. Bob Geldof/Midge Ure’s Band Aid release, “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” was tugging at our hearts, and the video, with it’s array of current and venerable pop stars, was delighting the little girls. So, no matter how adorable George Michael was in Wham’s, “Last Christmas,” Band Aid took the prize.

Both songs were re-released the following year, so George had another kick at the top spot, but alas… only came in second for the second time in a row. Maybe that’s what sent him off in his quest for love in all the wrong bathrooms.

originally published in December 11, 2016 –  Christmas Presents

Sometimes it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to dredge up the spirit of the holidays that we all need, and have always needed, to face a cold world and a new year.

But we must have hope, and we must inspire our children to have hope, and to have faith that we are stronger together, united, than we are apart. The sharing of a meal with loved ones has never had to be about the biggest turkey or the fanciest desserts; it’s always been about communing with those we love and care about, sharing our energy, and giving each other strength

and that’s what the Grinch (and Christmas) is all about, Charlie Brown…

Beggaring ourselves to buy expensive presents that are rarely received in quite the spirit we hoped, is not how we show our love to others. The true gifts we give to each other are those of support, of listening to what the other is saying, and to responding thoughtfully without concern for more than what is best for the other. And these gifts of love must be all about understanding that not a single one of us is perfect, or without traits that will annoy someone else at some point.

Yes, there are distractions. Yes, the world is a very scary place right now. Yes, those of us sensitive to world issues fear for the lives and souls of the vulnerable.

But we also owe it to ourselves, and to those we love, to find the time to gather together, and to share what we have with each other, in a spirit of generosity and community. It’s how human beings have coped with the vagaries of our times since we first crawled out of the primordial ooze, and regardless of what deity we worshipped at the time.

My wish for all is that you have time with loved ones, and that, if for some reason you do not have that opportunity this year, that you reach out and accept an invitation to join others who find themselves alone in the holidays. There is strength in community and we all need that shared strength to get us through whatever awaits us in the new year.

…………………………………………….

Wishing everyone a warm and peaceful holiday season! See you next year!

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!

Christmas and Snowbound in the Treasured Past


My mum embodied the Spirit of Christmas. She loved everything about the holiday, and she made every one of my childhood Christmas’ as merry and bright as she could.

She’d grown up in the depression – she knew Christmas wasn’t about money. When times were tough, she’d tell us it would be a “Hoodoo McFiggin” year – that meant the only presents would be things she had to buy us anyway, just to keep us clothed and fed – underwear, socks, boots. Presents were lGrinch xmas means a little moreovely, but some years, presents could wait. Christmas was about gathering with family, and sharing what we did have, and what we had to spare was love.

She just had so damn much joy and childlike belief in the season that it all came naturally through her to us … the breathless lead up that began months before, when she’d start asking my sister and I what we were going to ask to receive from Santa, and the admonition that we must be very sure of what we’d tell the Big Man when the day came … this was serious business! We were to name only one important item we really, really wanted. If there were other gifts, they would be of Santa’s choosing. We’d spend hours arguing over what toys were best, what we really wanted, and we’d change our minds a zillion times before our visit to Santa’s Kingdom.

cindy lou whoNor were the needs of others to be forgotten. We’d be given a small amount of money, and a list of those we needed to delight with thoughtful gifts. It’s extraordinary how far $5.00 could go back in the sixties. We would have been mortified to not have a gift to give to any of the family who had brought a gift for us. Some years would find us digging through our own stash of precious things, in order to find something we could wrap quickly and present to an unexpected guest.

In the run up to the Day itself, we’d drag out the boxes of carefully packaged ornaments that Mum had collected through the years. She’d linger over the battered aluminum stars made from pie plates, reminding me that she and I had made those together, one year when I was very young, and recovering from the mumps. She’d carefully unwrap the fragile glass ornaments she’d had since she and dad first married, each colourful globe a warm memory. soap bubble ornamentAnd she’d always linger over a set of orbs, some round, some tear-shaped, so transparent they reflected rainbows, so precious and delicate, “they’re like soap bubbles , Roxanne! Aren’t they beautiful?!”   

We had to have a real tree. She felt there was no point in having a tree if it didn’t come with that delicious smell, and the scratchy feel of pine needles under foot. The tree would find a place of honour in the dining room, and strict instructions about its care and watering were delivered. After the tree was set into the metal holder, she’d draw a bright red and sparkly cloth gently around the base, and then add puffs of ‘angel hair’ to make the tree look like it was floating on a cloud.

xmas tree old timeyShe’d drape the tree’s branches with long strands of tiny glass beads, the beads a little more worn every year, but shining nonetheless. The box of tinsel was precious too; after Christmas we’d gather as many of the used strands as we could and save them for the following year. We had two special toppers for the tree – one, a paper plate collage of an angel adorned with cotton batting that I’d made in first grade, the other , a plastic doll dressed as an angel, it’s halo tipped jauntily to the left, a scratch of pen ink faintly visible on it’s cheek.

Christmas songs would be playing on the little record player, and we’d all sing along as we decorated. Jodi and I liked to make up new and naughty words to some of the classics, just to make mum laugh, before she’d chide us to “Behave! Santa hears and sees everything you do!”

Once the tree was up and decorated, we went into a two week hiatus, where the other 50 weeks of naughtiness were replaced by determined niceness. We’d wait brearankin bass productionsthlessly for the Christmas specials to appear on the TV; without video or DVD, you had to be home to see “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” or one of the other animated delights, most of which seemed to be Rankin Bass productions.

As my sister and I got older, we began to appreciate more adult offerings; Jodi loved “It’s A Wonderful Life.” My favorite was “Holiday Inn,” with the moment I waited for being when the heroine posed in silhouette against a giant red paper heart, before dancing through it … and breaking poor old Bing Crosby’s heart.

 

 

And of course no Christmas was complete without the scary, but ultimately uplifting, black and white classic … Alastair Sim in “A Christmas Carol.” God bless us, everyone!christmas-carol-1951

There was also one special box that contained nothing but photos, recipes, newspaper clippings, song lyrics, and a few very treasured books. Our favourite to read and to have read to us was Erwin L. Hess’ Christmas and Snowbound in the Treasured Past,” a large full coloured collection of holiday poems, stories, artwork and photos, from 1961.

xmas and snowbound n the treasured past

We remember our best Christmas.  A flashback appears and this favourite Christmas plays on a very special screen in a picture of color, and we see the scenes we remember so well.  Immediately our story we’ll begin to tell…It snowed early that year.  In those days the holiday spirit was in the air with the first fall of snow.  Sleigh bells jingled and that meant Christmas was near!” 

We loved that book; it epitomized an ideal Christmas, one that we’d never had, nor likely ever would. But it held a promise, so much so that the phrase, “Christmas and snowbound in the treasured past” became our family code for how we imagined paradise to be.

First_Snow Jay MaiselWere winters colder then? Not always … one memorable Montreal Christmas Eve, the family toddled off to church in summer dresses and sandals, only to emerge into a starlit night made brighter by soft, fat flakes of snow gently falling onto the sidewalks. But that was an aberration; most Christmas Eves were ‘see your breath’ cold, brightened by our new knit hats and mittens that Gram had made to keep us warm.

Cold, colder and coldest was more often the weather on Christmas day. During my teen years, the habit was to gather at one of the uncles’ house to carve the roast beast. The best parties were at Uncle John’s big house in Chambly, as there was plenty of room for the kids to play, and even a special room where we could have our own holiday meal, manners and decorum cast aside, while the adults ate, smoked, clinked glasses and laughed about adult matters. We felt a little sorry for them – they didn’t even get to watch TV while they ate!  50s kids watcing tv

No matter where the party was held, in time the celebrations would wind down, and we’d gather our outdoor clothing, say goodbye to the umpteen cousins, and kiss all the ‘grumps,’ (grown ups) before piling into the car for the long ride home, across snowy roads and an ice-laced Pont Cartier, and then along Sherbrooke Street for miles, our bellies full and heads nodding, and inevitably slipping into sleep just before the car drew into the driveway. If we were small enough, we’d even get carried to our beds, where our new pjs and slippers awaited us.

It was a very different time, and, as with every generation that comes along, we were creating our own version of what Christmas should look and feel like. My mother’s memories were precious, but no more precious than the one’s she created for my sister and me.

Times change, and families are usually smaller than they used to be, and often times, a great deal more complicated. The name we give to that wonderful time of year when we get together to eat and sing and laugh and pray may be Christmas, or Hanukkah, Kwanza, Ramadan, or even Festivus. Heck, call it “Christmahanakwanzika“ if you want to.

What we call the holiday doesn’t matter – what matters is that we take the time to find that small, still place in our hearts, where peace and goodwill live. We gather with our families and friends to join our hearts and hands, to share what we have, and to give thanks that we … together … made it through another year, and are ready to enter another year, whatever it may bring … together.

coexist xmas

 

 

Hoodoo McFiggin’s Christmas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZm0WoTl1wU

 

(first published Dec, 2015: bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2015/12/13/roxanne-tellier-christmas-and-snowbound-in-the-treasured-past/)