The holidays are just around the corner. At this time of year, many of us find our thoughts turning to the things we hold close: family and friends, food and faith, and traditions. Old traditions that evoke warm memories. And new traditions that speak to change and fresh starts. I love to hear how others celebrate at this time of year. With that in mind, I decided to ask a few writer friends to tell me about their favorite holiday traditions. I’ll be sharing their answers with you over the next couple of weeks.
Sylvia McNicoll: Early Christmas is my favourite holiday tradition, newly created as a result of my three children marrying into extended families that quickly fill up the statutory holidays with celebrations. Usually the Sunday before December 24 we get together in the afternoon, and allow the children to open the gifts almost immediately. Santa visits this set of grandparents first! The kids play till we enjoy our prime rib and Yorkshire pudding dinner, complete with sticky toffee pudding and yuletide log–relaxed and unhurried.
Victoria Miles: My favorite Christmas tradition is decorating our tree. I pull out from under our stairs the very same boxes my mother packed the decorations in that I inherited when she passed away. Many of the decorations are over fifty years old and along with all the glass balls, bells and birds of various sizes there are some distinctly unique decos, including a space man with a clear glass helmet, and an odd little Pinocchio. Added more recently there’s a decoration from the crafty kids at Christianne’s Lyceum and a tiny set of white leather and bead moccasin boots—a gift from Ainslie Manson for dog sitting when the girls were small and that was all we could manage for a summer holiday. Soft toy decorations ring the bottom of the tree and those the girls are allowed to hang themselves; the rest of the ritual is for my husband and I. We use the same strings of lights that were once Mum’s, bold and bright rainbow colours with tinted metal reflectors in flower and star patterns. And we trim the branches exactly as she did, with long strands of lead tinsel, reused year after year, that is hooked gently between the fir needles one strand at a time.
Victoria Miles, Mimi Power and the I-Don’t-Know-What (Tradewind) This year, my Christmas card to the world is “A Power Christmas Special” — a FREE ibook for everyone to download and share at: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/a-power-christmas-special/id940288695?mt=11
Lisa McManus: It started quite a few years ago, and I don’t know how or why. The ‘Spot’ has been our spot for so many years – for so many memories and celebrations – that it made sense to go there on Christmas Eve. Every December 24th we head to BC-owned White Spot Restaurant for dinner. It’s a tradition – it’s almost a given – and I look forward to it every year. Some might think it unconventional, but heck it works for us. We go to the same location and we always seem to get the same table server - he gets a big tip!! Needless to say, I’m counting down the days - not so much for Christmas, but for Christmas Eve dinner!
Lisa McManus, Newbie Nick (Lycaon Press) www.lisamcmanus.com
Diana Stevan: A Christmas tradition is making sugar cookies with my grandchildren. It started out with my children and graduated to include the grandkids. I put Christmas Carols on, make a batch of sugar cookie dough and then we proceed to decorate them with our designs, using corn syrup and all kinds of coloured sprinkles. Last year, my grandson was 17, and I thought he wouldn’t want to do it anymore, but I was wrong. He’s coming home from U for Christmas break and I have yet to find out whether we’ll be doing them again. I suspect we will. Our family also gets out the Christmas carol song sheets every Christmas Eve and boisterously sings as many as we can before ending with Silent Night and only the Christmas tree lights on.
Diana Stevan, A Cry From the Deep (Amazon/Create Space) http://www.dianastevan.com
Lea Tassie: I’m not usually keen on Christmas traditions but eggnog is one I’ve always loved. My favorite treat as a kid was an eggnog made from eggs and milk that came from our own chickens and cow. There was no alcohol in it in those days; my mother disapproved of what she called ‘strong drink.’ But, for many years now, I’ve had an eggnog on Christmas morning while opening my presents. It’s not just that it smells and tastes delicious, especially with that hint of brandy and/or rum, it slides smoothly across my tongue and down my throat and forms a glowing little pool of happiness in my stomach. And not least, I love the sheer decadence of drinking alcohol before breakfast! It’s easy to make your own; there are many recipes on the internet. But even purchased eggnog, with one or two ounces of rum mixed in, a sprinkle of nutmeg on top, and a cinnamon stick for stirring, gives me an appetite for both gifts and breakfast like nothing else on earth.
Lea Tassie, Cats & Crayons http://leatassie.blogspot.com
Jocelyn Reekie: My favorite Christmas tradition was when I lived on Quadra Island. A few days before Christmas I and my family got into our van and drove to friends and neighbors homes, where we stood outside and sang. When their doors opened, we invited the listeners to come along. The chorus never failed to grow. A couple of hours later a caravan of singers went back to our house, where we drank hot, spiced wine and sang a little more before everyone returned home feeling just a little warmer than they had before.
Jocelyn Reekie, Please Don’t Eat The Cheese, House Mouse Tales, Volume 1, Christmas. www.jocelynreekie.com
Helaine Becker: My fave tradition is a new one I’m going to start this year. I purchased a Santa outfit for when I present my two Christmas-themed picture books, A Porcupine in a Pine Tree and Dashing through the Snow, to school groups. I’m going to wear it as I pass out gifts to family members – donations in their names to various literacy-related charities. I’m especially partial to Librarians without Frontiers (http://lwb-online.org/), with whom I’m working on a new, grassroots project to build mobile library units in Cambodian villages. The libraries will be created alongside new wells provided by Water of Hope (http://www.wha-cambodia.org/home). This project is going to make a big difference – bringing them both clean water and education at the same time.
Helaine Becker, Dashing through the Snow (Scholastic Canada). www.helainebecker.com
Karen Autio: Years ago my Finnish-Canadian grandmother taught me how to make sweet cardamom-flavoured Finnish Coffee Bread (known as pulla). One of my favourite holiday traditions is to mix and knead the dough on the morning of Christmas Eve, bake it that afternoon, and then enjoy it with my family on Christmas morning.
Karen Autio, Sabotage (Sono Nis) www.karenautio.com
Come back next week if you’d like to read more about writers and their favorite holiday traditions.