Holiday Spirit this Winter

Photo credit Ava

T’was a Month Before Christmas 2020 🎄

“T’was a month before Christmas, And all through the town, People wore masks, That covered their frown.

The frown had begun, Way back in the Spring, When a global pandemic, Changed everything.

They called it corona, But unlike the beer, It didn’t bring good times, It didn’t bring cheer.

Contagious and deadly,This virus spread fast,Like a wildfire that starts,When fueled by gas.

Airplanes were grounded,Travel was banned,Borders were closed,Across air, sea and land.

As the world entered lockdown,To flatten the curve,The economy halted,And folks lost their verve. 

From March to July, We rode the first wave,People stayed home, They tried to behave.

When summer emerged, The lockdown was lifted, But away from caution, Many folks drifted.

Now it’s November, And cases are spiking, Wave two has arrived, Much to our disliking.

Frontline workers, Doctors and nurses, Try to save people, From riding in hearses.

This virus is awful, This COVID-19, There isn’t a cure, There is no vaccine.

It’s true that this year, Has had sadness a plenty, We’ll never forget, The year 2020. 

And just ‘round the corner, The holiday season, But why be merry? Is there even one reason?

To decorate the house, And put up the tree, When no one will see it, No-one but me. 

But outside my window, The snow gently falls, And I think to myself, Let’s deck the halls!

So, I gather the ribbon, The garland and bows, As I play those old carols, My happiness grows.

Christmas ain’t cancelled, And neither is hope, If we lean on each other, I know we can cope.”

By: Shawna Hickling, Calgary, AB, Canada

November 19, 2020

Shining Lights to Brighten the Spirit

Photo credit Ava

We all are looking to find holiday spirit this year. This poem reminds me that the beauty of a day outdoors with snow falling on the trees and the twinkling lights on houses can give us some much needed joy, and bringing the beautiful light indoors by putting up a Christmas tree and lighting candles warms our hearts. Even bringing along a hot chocolate and going to see the festive lights around town is something that can bring joy. (Luckily with all the LED lights we do not have to worry as much about the energy being used.) These photos are from Candy Cane Lane in St. Albert this year. Thank you to Ava for sharing them.

Photo credit Lucy

Here in Edmonton, the winter city, we have a few light up Winter Wonderlands to walk through or drive through:

Zoominesence: A Festival of Lights until January 3 at the Edmonton Valley Zoo where you can skate, create a craft, admire the installations and generally brighten up your night. This festival celebrates light, artistry, imagination and the spirit of our winter community.

Photo credit Ava

Winter Wonder Forest until January 3 at Rainbow Valley Campground where you can look at the more than 115000 square feet of campground that is transformed into a breathtaking Holiday light display viewed from the warmth of your vehicle. You can book your spot at winterwonderforest.ca

Luminaria until December 31 at the University of Alberta Botanical Gardens where you can escape to an oasis of peace and light. Stroll the candle-lit pathways of the Kurimoto Japanese Garden, sip hot apple cider beside a bonfire, enjoy a cappella singers and spot snow sprites in the glittering ice sculptures.

We have just gone with our friends Liane and Terry to the Devonian Botanical Gardens for Luminaria and it was simply magical. There is a cost, and you need to book a scheduled time. It is stunning how many candles glow along the path in the Japanese garden. Here are some photos I grabbed of the lights.

I am certain every city in Canada has such adventures.

Memorable Experiences Outdoors

Ava’s children having a blast tobogganing Photo credit Ava

Other experiences we can share outdoors can include a simple walk, a snow shoe walk, skating, tobogganing, and cross country skiing. We can still enjoy the great outdoor togetherness, COVID has not taken that away from us! Lucy has several walking buddies which always makes the hikes more enjoyable. She also finally has linked up the Edmonton Public Library with an app to her phone (Libby by Overdrive) that allows her to walk while listening to library audio books. This gets her off the couch as she enjoys a good story, and usually makes her walk farther and get more steps! Walking in the Whitemud Ravine is known for its opportunity to see birds, so bring some bird seed and have a chickadee eat out of your hands. One time we had some seeds and shared them with a family with 4 little children and it melted our hearts to see how happy they all were having chickadees repeatedly land on their hands to feed.

Photo credit Lucy

This year when we are less likely to be able to sit around the table to dine together or around the tree to open gifts, we need to find these outdoor experiences to share time together. Lucy’s newest favourite saying is “There is no bad weather, just bad gear” so just bundle up. We are getting great use of our trekkers to put on our boots to avoid slipping. Other upcoming winter adventures to look forward to in Edmonton: from January 11-12 is the Deep Freeze Byzantine Winter Festival on Alberta Avenue and all of February is the Silverskate Festival at Hawrelak Park. And remember the joy of flapping arms and legs to make snow angels 🙂

Handcraft Some Awesome DIY Gifts

Everyone who has a hobby or talent might think about sharing them this year more than ever. There is nothing nicer than getting a home made piece of art from a child, a plate of baking from a friend, a knit scarf from your Mom, a family traditional dish from a friend. Some of our friends reading this blog may think we are writing this especially for them, but really we are not (wink wink nod nod)! Lucy loves having received anitpasto and home made jelly and hand crafted cards, and unique tree ornaments, and the videos of a song played on the piano or sung. Lucy’s Mom has dementia, and so we have been singing familiar carols while FaceTiming, (even though we do not all have great voices), and this has given us all great joy and a memory for a lifetime! Some of us have more time now to dust off our craft supplies or our baking trays and get creative.

Here’s one of Catherine’s favourite roasted nut recipes to fill your home with a welcoming warm aroma of brown sugar and rosemary for a tasty treat. A double batch might make extras and a nice gift for a friend or neighbour to enjoy too. Nigella Lawson’s Union Cafe Bar Nuts recipe: https://bit.ly/33Vlo1j

Creating a thoughtful basket with favourite consumable products would be a lovely way to present your DIY gifts. We especially love nature projects, using evergreen boughs, twine and candles to create a beautiful table setting or door hanging to brighten up the season and bring some of the outdoors in. Lucy is now into watercolor painting and still makes jewelry, and cherry jelly, so she plans to gift these with family and friends.

A Year to Think About Others In Need

This year when so many people are struggling to feed their family, and we hear on the news about food scarcity, we can give of our time to create and deliver food baskets. We can donate to the Food Bank when we go to the grocery store or online. All charities are in great need, and if you missed Giving Tuesday last week, that is okay, because everyday is a good time to give. With this blog we are aware of more environmental causes that give back to Mother Earth such as “Trees Canada” where you can gift trees to your family and friends. You can donate to “4Oceans” to help clean up the plastics. Everyone has their favourite charities. Consider giving again for those who cannot give this year. Lucy just came across an Edmonton group on Facebook that is linking donors to families in need. It is called Reindeer Exchange, and the focus is providing gifts to the children in the family. We find giving back is so good for the soul, and brings happiness to others and to ourselves.

Re-Gifting

We have pre-arranged with some friends to re-gift books we have already read. It makes us happy to share a favourite read, and avoids the accumulation of books on the shelves to dust. In Catherine’s neighbourhood several houses have Little Free Libraries; another way for randomly sharing a good read while out for a walk. This re-gifting can also be a fun exchange at work, as we all likely have unused gifts at home to swap, and it takes all the pressure out of more serious gift exchanges. A can of spam was a memorable fun gift item Lucy recalls from a staff party almost 20 years ago.

If you are looking for some book ideas, here are a few favourite books that Lucy has recently read:

  • Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
  • Red Notice by Bill Browder
  • Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
  • American Dirt by Janine Cummins
  • Where the Crawdags Sing by Delia Owens

Gift an Experience

“We may not be able to travel or go to concerts and sporting events right now, but once COVID restrictions are lifted and it’s safe to do so, we have a feeling that many people will be itching to make up for lost time. So gift something that can be enjoyed in the future, like tickets to a rescheduled game, comedy show, play, or concert, a fun day trip, a museum membership, guitar lessons, or even a gift card to a favorite local restaurant or business. You’ll be supporting a local business and giving your recipient something to look forward to!” Stole this idea from One Tree Planted.

We can’t wait for Spring and the start of a new gardening season. This makes us think about ideas for gifting our time and labour, e.g., offering a day’s labour to help with hauling soil and preparing the garden for planting, or perhaps helping to paint a room with a cheery, energizing new colour to give lift to the start of a New Year.

Favourite Zoom Choir Song

Here is a link to a cover of Maroon 5’s song “Memories” sung on zoom by One Voice Children’s choir. This moved us so much this year, and is very uplifting.

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We hope you are able to find the spirit of the season this year. Maybe reach out and call an old friend. Lucy recalls years ago when her daughter Brenna was age 12 and was singing Carols with her good friend Kelly at the Sherwood Park Mall. After they finished a woman came up and said, “Today I found the spirit of the season when you sang O Holy Night. Thank you so much.” That was a special moment. Wishing you many such special moments this year.

Lucy’s neighbour Mike’s house, photo credit Lucy

2 thoughts on “Holiday Spirit this Winter

  1. Maureen Drake

    Merry Christmas/ Happy Holidays to you both and all your readers. I, too have discovered so many walking trails in my area and feel like I have gone full circle with the trees, grasses and wildflowers. I have seen the barest of trails in late winter all the way to the glorious orange, red, yellow and browns of Fall. It’s been wonderful being outside. Covid has been a journey in more than one way. Enjoy the holiday season and I can attest that Catherine’s Holiday Nut recipe is definitely worth making. Warning ⚠️ highly addictive. 🎄❤️💚

    Like

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