I admit it; I’m a little late with this post. I’ve been so busy enjoying my favourite things about Christmas that I didn’t have time to write about them. Since the new year isn’t here yet, though, I think I can get away with it.
I was away from Christmas in Canada (living in Abu Dhabi) for so long (10 years) that, although this is our second Christmas at home, it still feels odd. I’ve also noticed that Christmas now is a blend of old traditions Roland and I developed while in Abu Dhabi and some new ones we’ve added since re-joining our family circle. In honour of that mingling of old and new, I’ve compiled a list of my favourite things about Christmas. I tried to put them in order, but I gave up because I couldn’t choose any one over the others. So here they are in random order…
A hot concoction of red wine and spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, gluwein is a perfect accompaniment to whatever you are eating on a cold winter night. Before meeting Roland, I’d never had this lovely libation. He and his family introduced me to it, and for that I am grateful. It’s a delightful mix best served with Christmas baking: cookies, pie, chocolate etc. And those subjects bring me to…
This favourite’s origins as part of this list date back to when I was a child. My grandmother used to make a great pumpkin pie every year, so I cannot think of this dessert without thinking of her. Although she’s gone, pumpkin pie remains a mainstay of my holiday feasting because my husband bakes a fantastic, velvety version of it—with roasted whole pumpkin. The holidays simply wouldn’t be the same without it.
Another staple at the Christmas tables of my childhood that still tickles my taste buds is shortbread. Gramma introduced me to this buttery treat as well and, lucky for me, Roland can bake those too. I appreciate that I can still indulge in these old darlings of the holiday season. The tinned ones simply don’t match up.
This is a new cookie since Roland came into my life. It’s not that I’d never eaten gingerbread before, but it was not something I ate regularly as a child. Somehow, it has become a staple in the new household Roland and I made when we married. I find it a nice spicy addition to the cookie jar, and now the holidays would seem a little hollow without it. Roland likes his smothered in icing, but I prefer mine “straight up.”
So far this post has focused on the foods of the holiday season (food is a general obsession of mine, so I guess that’s no surprise). To prove that I do appreciate other things, I will shift to other items I adore about December in Edmonton.
A real tree
For many years, we couldn’t have a real tree; you just don’t find them in the Middle East. The fake one we bought our first year in Abu Dhabi was nice enough, for a synthetic tree. We put it up faithfully every year and passed it on to some new arrivals in the UAE when we left. Last year, for our first Canadian Christmas since returning, we got a real tree. In fact, it was the first real tree I remember having in decades because even when I lived here before I got married, my tree was always fake.
That tree last year smelled divinely of pine. Every time I entered the living room, its fresh, pungent scent greeted my nose and made me truly feel the holiday spirit. Although the original plan was for only one year with a real tree, I soon changed my mind, and now plan to have one every year for as long as we live somewhere that it’s possible. This year we went with a slightly smaller version. It fit better in the living room than last year’s mega-tree, but truthfully I preferred the enormous one.
Candy Cane Lane
I am starting to sense a theme here; anything that reminds me of Christmas when I was young seems to still make the season special for me as an adult. The tradition of a journey down Candy Cane Lane fits that bill. Something about all those blocks of house after house with decoration and lights—and now, in some cases music—is pure magic to me. I remember driving it with my family as a child when we went to Gramma’s house for Christmas because it was near where she lived. I would look forward to it for weeks. These days, I look forward to walking it with Roland and Bailey. It still feels magical to me.
Classic Christmas cartoons
In days of yore, every year in mid-November, I would wait for the TV guide to come out on Fridays. I would sit down with a pen and circle all the Christmas cartoon specials in the little charts for each evening, and then I would make sure to watch them. Tons could be found, but I gravitated to the ones that would later become classics: Frosty the Snowman, Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, A Charlie Brown Christmas.
As an adult, those shows have become symbols of the season for me. In the years we lived without North American television, I missed them. One year in Abu Dhabi, my mother sent me a boxed CD set of those specials, and it felt like Christmas had been fully restored. When I watch them, I become, for a short time in the evening, in the light of the Christmas tree, a little girl again—and I love it.
Those of you who know me well might wonder “Why did she leave out The Grinch when talking about Christmas cartoons? That’s her favourite.” You’re right; it is, but I leave it for its own category for a reason…
The Grinch is my favourite seasonal show (the classic 30 minute animated version not the movie version with—gasp—Jim Carrey as the evil green one; that version is a sacrilege if you ask me) but it has become a favourite in another way too. In one of our first Christmases as a married couple in AD, Roland bought me a copy of the Dr. Seuss book upon which the cartoon is based. I love that book, but I love it more now because Roland reads it aloud to me, complete with a Grinchy voice; it’s become a separate tradition, one that I adore.
At the risk of sounding cliché, I’ve saved the best and most important for last.
I adore being in Edmonton again to spend holiday time with our circle of loved ones from home (though we do miss our friends in AD and those who have also left there the desert for greener pastures). Whatever their favourite things are about Christmas, I hope they had them in abundance.
And, readers, whatever your favourite things are about Christmas, I hope you had them in abundance as well.
Happy New Year!