Creatures of tradition

I finished up the most important business of Christmas yesterday and I finally feel that all is right with the world - finding the right presents that will get stuffed into the stockings after the boys go to bed later tonight.

The stockings, which hang above the fireplace, were knitted by my mom years ago, and are treasured accoutrements during the holiday season.  I'm grateful they are still with us, as they almost went up in flames the other night when I was at rehearsal.

Heather had piled some cardboard on the hearth and lit it on fire.  Unfortunately, with the spat of cold weather we've had, She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named had closed the flue to stop the frigid draft, and smoke began billowing out into the living room followed by flames.  She grabbed our precious stockings and flung them out of the way before dashing with Dylan for some bowls of water to douse the flames.  It was a close call, a fire faux pas that almost cost us our stockings and potentially, much more.

They are hanging there now, slightly singed in a few spots, but ready to reveal surprises tomorrow morning.

The stockings were always fair game in our house, able to be explored the moment we woke up on Christmas morning, regardless of how early it was.  The presents under the tree always had to wait until everyone was awake.

When I was growing up, it Dad's job to dole out the presents.  Each would get opened very carefully using a small knife to cut the tape.  In those days, wrapping paper was carefully preserved and protected in hopes of being used again the following year.  We are less careful these days.

In our house in Fort McMurray, we each take turns opening a present, collectively sharing our exaltations as the paper gets torn away revealing the gift within, before the next person in the circle dives in.  The process generally takes about 45 minutes to an hour (or longer, depending on the pile of gifts that have accumulated) and creates quite a mess of paper, ribbon and assorted piles of stuff.

Interestingly, as I'm doing my shopping, it is often the moment of the big reveal that I'm focusing on, and the hours that follow when packaging gets opened and the details of whatever the item are explored.  I found a couple of classic gifts that should provide hours of entertainment and fun tomorrow.

As I have grown older, I've become less interested in what lies under the tree for me.  I haven't even looked to be completely honest, though I'm interested to see what Ben had been furiously wrapping the other day after he came home from the Christmas market at the school.

While there is a lot of focus in both giving and receiving during this season, born out of generations that have practiced similar traditions, the magic of the season is rooted in something far deeper.  This is a time of family, of putting aside our cares and worries for a few days, to be together in love, gratitude, and fellowship.  The shape and circumstance of that 'coming together' is vastly different for other families, individuals, communities and countries, but the common thread would have to be love.  I sincerely hope you are surrounded by it, in whatever form it takes, as the day dawns on Christmas.  If you are not, if circumstances have conspired against you in some way, my wish would be that you get embraced by hope, a hope for better days to come.

Merry Christmas, and my deepest thanks for reading.


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