There isn’t one way to do the holidays right, but we might be doing it wrong…
Juliana Vieira, Illustrator
Whether you’re celebrating Christmas, New Year’s, Hanukkah or the Winter Solstice, there’s almost an endless number of holidays celebrated in December. Whatever it is you celebrate, or don’t celebrate, it’s safe to say there are many different traditions in just this one month alone. Despite the Hollywood-ified Christmas trope that tends to set the standard for a successful holiday season, most of us do things a little differently. Our editorial staff and contributors share their December traditions:
Can’t We Just Have a Small Tree?
Freya Wasteneys, Features Editor
‘Tis the season for the usual charade. Every Christmas it’s the same crunch of Dad’s boots up the logging road as he eyes the piles of logs poised for burning. When he spots “the one” – a 16-foot Charlie Brown hemlock, pre-decorated with Old Man’s Beard – he enlists his reluctant helpers.
As my siblings and I haul the massive, lopsided evergreen out of the rubble, my mother will inevitably protest. “Oh Hardolph, can’t we just have a small tree for once?”
Ignoring her pleas, we will strap the tree to the roof of the family vehicle with a stiff old climbing rope. A haphazard job for the short seven-minute drive home.
Back at the cabin, Home Depot bucket in hand, it’s my siblings job to gather rocks from the beach for the makeshift tree stand. I get the ladder while my parents wrestle the tree in through the deck’s sliding door.
Hanging from the peak of our family home is a pulley-system (a fixture year round) made with the sole purpose of holding up our tree. When Jamie and Avalon return bearing their bucket of water-rounded pebbles and boulders, we’ll hoist the tree into the rafters, and with practiced hands, wind the blue-white LEDs around the Franken-tree. A smattering of homemade decorations and keepsakes grace whatever branches we deem the most hospitable. My boyfriend, Ed, often (wisely) chooses to read his book on the couch.
As dinner time rolls around, it’s the usual battle of what to wear. Mom would really, really, really like us to dress up. Dad would really rather not. He stubbornly wears his 20-year-old black and blue plaid in a statement of defiance. Mom deems it a good time for her to break out the Christmas velvet. We three kids, all well into our twenties now, tend to opt for our fleece onesies. Ed, likes to keep it simple, and wears whatever he finds at the top of his duffel bag.
In the midst of this, perhaps we’ll hear the familiar whoosh as the propane flame goes out in the oven again. Something is always broken – Dad’s a last-minute fixer. The broil works though, so maybe we’ll use that to cook the Christmas meal again. Or maybe Dad will take the oven apart with my brother, while Mom transfers the turkey pan to the woodstove, rotating it rotisserie style for several hours. My sister will retreat to the loft, wrapping presents and humming to herself, using her athlete focus to enter a zen-like state, and I will write a poem about the night before Christmas, and something about a mouse (eating the oven wires). We’re nothing, if not reliable.
Thanks for Nothing…
Nivedan Kaushal, Arts & Culture Editor
As someone whose family does not celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s or any other Western “excuse to stuff your face,” the holiday season is exactly like any other – completely normal. With that being said though, every December I feel like I’m missing out on something. I didn’t grow up with Santa Claus. I don’t get gifts on Dec. 25. I don’t have any unique family traditions. I don’t relate with any Christmas movies (I’m looking at you, Elf). Nevertheless, as the days get darker and the breeze gets colder, I always think to myself, “Who will I share my first Christmas dinner with?” It’s not about Christmas itself – it’s that I’ve never experienced that warm, fuzzy feeling that everyone is “supposed to feel” at this time of year, complete with Christmas lights and eggnog.
On the rare occasion I’ve been a part of a Christmas-related activity, it hasn’t gone well. Take Secret Santa – a favourite for high school classrooms everywhere. The first (and last) Secret Santa I was a part of was in Grade 10. Each member of my drama class worked incredibly hard to get a fabulous gift for their assigned person, including me. I went out of my way to buy a handcrafted glass Christmas tree ornament from the local fair for my assigned person – who I knew collected glass sculptures. I was buzzing to finally be a part of this grand elusive entity that is Christmastime. After all, it would have been my first Christmas gift ever.
The gifting day finally arrived. Every single person got something truly suited to them – a toy orrery for the space enthusiast, a custom mousepad for the gamer, you get the idea. What did my person get for me? Absolutely nothing. Out of 29 people in my class, the kid who doesn’t do anything for the holidays was the only one to be left out. Expected. Admittedly, Grade 10 was a while ago and I definitely should have let this go by now… but still. What a grind.
None of this is to say that I don’t enjoy the holiday season. It’s an excuse to be home with my family in Nanaimo and meet up with old friends. I may not have Christmas dinners, but I still indulge in delicious food with the people I love. One day though, I’ll get to share the Christmas experience with someone properly. Hopefully that’ll be this year.
Please, Don’t Let This Become a Thing…
Megan Orr, Opinions Editor
Last year, Christmas Eve started with a few chores around the house – my brother and his wife were expecting another baby and I was doing some menial work and running errands. After some very mild labour, my brother and I settled down for a couple of not-so-well-deserved double rye and cokes before heading to dinner at my aunt’s.
Cut to: a bottle of wine, two caesars, two beers and various other inebriants later and we were ready for Santa to give us the sweet gift of death. Things went from fun and festive to fully fucked up real quick. Though being that hungover in the morning together was somewhat of a bonding experience, I wouldn’t wish the feeling of waking up on Christmas Day with the most catastrophic hangover of your life on my worst enemy. Having to feign interest in all the crap your adorable three-year-old nephew is getting while wondering if your brain can actually swell to the point of seeping out of your ears is not what Christmas is all about.
I will be the first to admit that the life choices that led to the most brutal hangover I have ever experienced were questionable. However the hilarity of our idiotic duo, just trying to soak up as much fun (and alcohol) as we possibly could before the stockings were drunkenly hung with care later that night, does not escape me.
That being said, if I felt like it was a bad idea for me, the fun aunt in this scenario, it was an actual disaster for my brother playing the role of responsible dad. I do not recommend feeling like a literal garbage human on Christmas morning when your nephew asks you to play Lego with him. You politely say, “Not right now, sweetie,” when what you really mean is, “Don’t you dare even look at me.”
We eventually rallied, gingerly sipping on Caesars and coffee with Baileys over breakfast (as one does on Christmas Day) but a part of me that I can never get back died that morning. It was like finding out Santa isn’t real – my innocence was gone. While I sincerely hope that this never happens again, I also know that it probably will, because that’s the thing about holiday traditions: you don’t always get to choose them. Merry Christ-smashed.
Getting Jiggy with Fire and Ice…
Emma Lewicky, Contributor
New Year’s Eve with my family doesn’t involve watching the New York ball drop on TV. Going out to celebrate with your friends isn’t an option either. Instead, we haul our butts up to 100 Mile House (a six-hour drive) to light fireworks in the middle of a frozen lake at exactly midnight on Jan. 1. Writing this, I now realize how crazy it seems to be lighting fireworks on ice. Despite the suspicious cracking sound one year, so far the ice has held.
Possible danger aside, the trip is always a good one. Clustered in our cozy cabin (passed down by my grandparents) on the edge of the lake, the head count usually includes my mom, dad, two siblings, and sometimes a few family friends. The theme is fire and ice – we snowmobile, go ice fishing and engage in raucous snowball fights. Tobogganing is given a facelift too, with a snowmobile tow-rope for those too lazy to walk back up the hill. And then, of course, there’s our frozen lake fireworks.
To prepare for the night on ice we first bundle up in as many layers that we possibly can. We still want to make sure we’re able to walk or at least waddle somewhat though. Thermoses are filled up with either hot chocolate, coffee or apple cider, and champagne is packed for the celebration. Getting to the lake we partner up on snowmobiles and take a little joyride through the forest, until we finally get to the, hopefully, very frozen lake. Driving to the middle of the lake, or what we presume is the middle since its pitch-black outside and we never truly know where we are, we set up shop. Fireworks are set out, watches are observed, and at 11:59 pm explosions fill the air. Champagne is poured, cups are toasted, and we welcome the new year. It’s the same tradition since I was a child. The ice hasn’t failed us yet.