As my youngest son enters his teenage years and my oldest son prepares to exit them, I have learned to enjoy the holidays again. Somehow presenting a formal meal or finding the right presents doesn’t seem as important as it used to. And, without these pressures, I have come to appreciate all the simple pleasures that come with the holiday season. As I walk around town, fighting the wind as it blows down the back alleys and hoping the sun finally cracks through the clouds, I make a mental list of these simple pleasures that make me smile. In my office, with a splash of eggnog in my tea and Chris Botti’s December playing on the stereo, I write down the first half-dozen that come to mind.
No annual event in Creston brings out the same degree of neighbourly love than the first snowfall. After slipping on their winter boots and wrapping scarves around their necks, shop owners gather to clear the sidewalks with various sized shovels. They don’t talk much but instead nod their heads as the sound of scraping fills the crisp morning air. Together they sprinkle salt as if planting seed and, for a brief moment, the simple satisfaction of a clear path brings a smile. Then, if you listen carefully, you can hear the garbled speakers at Spirit Square blast out holiday tunes.
With much of my Christmas shopping completed, I enjoy strolling without any real sense of purpose or direction in and out of shops looking for small stocking stuffers. I pop into Tigz Designs and Tilia Botanicals for loose tea and other pleasant smelling things. I scan the odd and unusual section at Kingfisher Used Books (and find something for myself). I find chocolates at Morris Flowers, a journal at Black Bear Books, and an HDMI cable at Lectric Avenue (which will make more sense come Christmas morning).
When school lets out for the day, and the mass exodus of children head for the warm comforts of home, I start to think about dinner and am delighted to realize that I can use locally sourced chorizo from Dirty Hoe Gastro Farm & Butchery, various vegetables from Wloka Farms, and potatoes gathered from my muddy potato patch (which is currently a frozen potato-less potato patch). When dinner’s in the oven, I plug in the Christmas lights and wrap the stocking stuffers in Santa-themed wrapping paper before hiding them again in my sock drawer.
As Creston becomes enveloped in darkness and the cats curl up on office chairs or on top of the dryer (or wherever else they claim as their own), I think on all the ancient cultures that celebrated the defeat of darkness by the coming of the light on the morning of the shortest day of the year. For a brief moment in time, the rising sun on winter solstice targets significant archeological sites including Newgrange in Ireland, Stonehenge in England, Chichen Itza in Mexico, Machu Picchu in Peru, Karnak Temple in Egypt, and Angkor Wat in Cambodia. For me, the defeat of darkness means I’m one day closer to putting the Volkswagen back on the road and running in West Creston without slipping on icy dark corners.
Though I’d rather stay inside and drink another cup of tea while my wife crotchets a lovely warm cowl, using naturally dyed and sustainably sourced wool from Beatha Textiles, I drive my youngest son and his friends to the Creston & District Community Complex instead. With various sized plastic sleds, they hike to the top of the hill adjacent to the parking lot before careening down at wonderfully dangerous speeds. Sometimes they aim for an icy jump that sends them into a long and glorious second-and-a-half of weightlessness before rejoining reality at the bottom of the hill.
It doesn’t take long before they are exhausted and ready for hot chocolate with marshmallows on top. With rosy cheeks and fingers wrapped around their drinks, they sit around the dining room table and debate whether they should build a gingerbread house or wait until tomorrow. The debate doesn’t last long and they choose – as any self-respecting child does – to do it right away. Using the largely inedible prepackaged kit, they begin to piece together the walls and roof before ‘gluing’ on the candy. Later that evening, my wife and I settle in to watch one of many holiday movies that play on an endless loop – Love, Actually or the more family-friendly Elf.
Whether it’s popping open another door on the advent calendar, or baking cookies for the cookie exchange, or driving around to look at the Christmas light displays, or picking up loved ones at the airport, or just snuggling under heavy blankets at the end of the day, the holiday season is not about grand gestures or expensive things. Instead, the holiday season is about savouring the simple pleasures that lift our spirits and bring a smile. That’s all you really need.
Happy holidays from all of us at the Creston Valley Advance.