Our Dear Grandson, Ori,
This is your first Christmas! Wow! But… what does that mean?
As I write this letter to you, I realize that what Christmas means to me has changed a lot… and continues to change with each passing year. This is my 64th Christmas. This is your first!
When I think about Christmas, my mind goes to another place and time. I remember when I was about 6 years old. My brother, Mark and I shared a room with two single beds in our home at 221 Clemow Avenue in the small town of Pembroke, Ontario. On Christmas Eve we were so excited that we couldn’t sleep. We would get up in the middle of the night to see if Santa had come to our house yet.
First, we had to sneak past Mom and Dad’s room and then our older sister, Gisele’s room. Finally we would tip toe to the end of the hall in the quiet of the night and then peak around the corner into the living room and there it was… the hushed silence of shining tinsel on the tree, visible only because of the street light coming through the front window… the decorated Christmas tree with all the gifts under it!
That’s all we needed to know. Tip toeing back to our room it was all we could do to contain our excitement and avoid waking every one in the house. Back in our beds it seemed like forever that we excitedly whispered to each other before we thought it was ok to wake up everyone else.
Of course, we had to go to church first, like all the Roman Catholic families. The frenzy of unwrapping those presents would just have to wait until we got home. Mark and I had difficulty sitting through church at the best of times, but on Christmas morning, with all that fun waiting for us at home? We were vibrating in our seats with anticipation!
Christmas was a big deal and all of the excitement was focused on the gifts. I remember one year when we looked out the living room window during our middle of the night reconnaissance, we saw two tracks across the front lawn. Wide eyed, we turned to each other wondering… “Was that Santa’s sleigh?” When we got older, we wondered if Dad had something to do with it. He was the biggest kid of all and always did everything he could to make Christmas special for us.
Over the years, as we get older and wiser (?), the focus of Christmas has changed. Our first Christmases with your Mom, and her sister, Aunt Megan, were similar to those festive occasions we experienced when we were kids. After a few years, the meaning of Christmas started to change for Grams and myself. With our rising focus towards minimalism and our growing social conscience, the emphasis on buying so many gifts just didn’t seem so right.
Ori, you are the first of this new generation. What will Christmas look like for you… today and when you’ve grown?
Since 2014, our seasonal celebrations have taken on a whole new dimension. When your Mom married your Dad, we welcomed the new seasonal celebrations of Hanukkah, the Jewish Celebration of Lights along with the menorah and shammash and the dreidel. We are fascinated to learn about and embrace Jewish culture and traditions from your Dad and grateful for his interest in continuing these traditions and sharing them with us.
We are also happy to witness another shift in the focus of our seasonal celebrations. The emphasis on buying and sharing gifts is being replaced by a new focus. Instead of stuff, we are thrilled to embrace experiences and adventures together as a family. As an already seasoned traveller I hope you will grow to appreciate and embrace this different way of celebrating.
This year, on your first Christmas, I am excited at the prospect of us all being together on the beaches near Tofino on Vancouver Island. You will get to see surfers in wet suits clambering to catch the ever elusive perfect wave. We will walk and explore the long flat beaches and gaze out over the waves and ponder distant, exotic shores that you will visit some day across the vast Pacific Ocean.
The forest trails, Frank Island, the Sunset Trail out to Pettinger Point the final resting place for your great grandfather's ashes and where the boardwalk has your Great Grandfather’s name etched on it as a reminder of his love for this place and for the sea… so many adventures to share together. And maybe, if it’s a clear night, we will stand on the beach and see the Christmas comet. I can’t wait!
Ori, I want to wish you and everyone we know, a very Merry Christmas, the first of many for you to enjoy as the seeds are planted for you to create your own experiences for future Christmas celebrations!
With all my love, from your Gramps and Grams (Charlie and Cindy)!
PS. This year, as in many years past, we continue our support of the fine work at the Family Resource Centre by donating gift cards so that they can help families at Christmas and throughout the year. This in lieu of sending gifts and cards and in keeping with our belief that Christmas is about sharing to help others experience and spread love and caring through this holiday season and hopefully, to encourage it all year long.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!