Christmas, You’ve Changed!



[dropcap]A[/dropcap]lthough 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 Crackers and christmas pudding have been replaced by Yule logs and gingerbread houses – I’ve learned to make my own puddings and bread sauce but Christmas crackers …?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 makeover

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.


It’s beautiful.


And I wouldn’t change a thing.


Merry Christmas from Canada xxx

By Aisha Ashraf

An autistic Irish immigrant in a cross-cultural marriage, Aisha Ashraf is the archetypal outlander, writing to root herself through place and perspective. Published in The Rumpus, The Maine Review, River Teeth, HuffPost and elsewhere, her work explores the legacy of trauma, the nature of being an outsider and the narrow confines of belonging. She currently lives in Canada.


  1. so interesting to see how things are in different countries, even countries we think of being quite similar! I have noticed more and more houses done up with lights here though, definitely getting more each year. I like it!

    1. It’s true, and it’s the small, unexpected differences that really throw you. It’s also interesting how cultural customs from across the pond slowly but surely take hold – Christmas jumpers, gingerbread houses, candycanes, more widespread Christmas lights and even the growing popularity of Halloween in the UK…

  2. Reading your post, I can almost feel the snow underfoot. Really enjoyed reading about a Canadian Christmas – especially as I lived in New York for a few years and loved Christmas there. By the way,I used to make crackers as a child and it’s really easy with a cracker-making kit. Lots of fun for children too.

  3. Aw that all sounds so lovely, especially backyard ice rinks and the geese as they fly across the sky. I love all the little differences, those things that make a difference from somewhere new to home…and the way they creep in and become normal themselves with time. Lovely post!

  4. Oh wow loving those decorations!! They must be so bright.

    I was actually saying to my husband though that I have personally seen a decline in the amount of houses that are decorated in our area this year….not sure if it’s because people are getting worried about bills.

  5. Thank you Aisha. What a delightful Christmas message. Much better than all the cards I haven’t got yet!! Have a Merry Christmas and Prosperous New Year. James

Fewer than 1% of visitors leave a comment - be different, be heard, be someone with an opinion.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.