Although Britain and Canada share a language and a history stretching back beyond pioneer times, when it comes to Christmas our friends in the North do things in their own inimitable style.
Back home every town had one or two residents who took it upon themselves to challenge the capacity of the National Grid each year with their exterior Christmas light show. If you wanted to locate them you’d ask Transport Police where the spikes in RTA’s (Road Traffic Accidents) were occurring, with motorists rear-ending one another as they gawked at the spectacle of someone’s home festooned with lights, a sleigh and full complement of reindeer on the roof and an entire life-size nativity scene taking place on the front lawn.
When we moved to Canada, suddenly it wasn’t just the odd house here and there – EVERYONE’s in on it. With Christmas following hot on the heels of Halloween I figure Canucks must spend a good deal of the coldest months up ladders checking bulbs. Perhaps that’s where the Christmas sweater comes in handy (yes, they really do that here!) and the taste for egg nog.
Christmas in another country brings a curious reminder of the diversity to be found in the universal. How can something common to so many be expressed in so many different ways? Crackers and christmas pudding have been replaced by Yule logs and gingerbread houses – I’ve learned to make my own puddings and bread sauce but Christmas crackers …? Well, you have to draw the line somewhere.
Christmas for me now is the rubberised squeak of fresh snow compacting underfoot, the crunch of salted grit, the thundering roar of snowplows in the dead of the night (if you jump out of bed and run to the window you may even see sparks flying from metal scraping road).
It’s waving my husband off to work in the morning through a haze of heat-crimped air as the warmth of the house sweeps past me out the door.
It’s taking ten minutes to dress before going anywhere and puddles outside doors where snowboots convene in pools of snowmelt.
It’s the Salvation Army dude with his bucket at the exit of the grocery store and the pyramids of bagged goods begging to be purchased on behalf of the hungry.
It’s cars spiked with icicles and snow shovels on every porch and hearing the rushing tumble of thaw beneath every manhole cover you pass.
It’s windchill, Extreme Weather Alerts and knowing you don’t have the emergency kit you probably should stashed in the trunk.
It’s the Christmas scene on tins of Tim Hortons Coffee, and giggling at Dave and Morley in the Vinyl Cafe Christmas Specials.
It’s enjoying a brighter home through light reflected from the snow outside, and days so crisp and clear they shine like jewels and you just know you have to get out there and breathe in the joy and vitality of simply being alive in a beautiful world.
It’s taking the sled to school and hearing Dads in the playground discussing the finer points of building a backyard ice rink.
It’s the plaintive call of Canada geese as they undulate and ululate daily overhead, their untidy V’s disappearing into the whiteness of a snow laden sky.
And I wouldn’t change a thing.
Merry Christmas from Canada xxx