I love the December holiday season and the festivals and beliefs it encompasses.
The scents of baking, twinkling lights, tinsel, Christmas music and classic ghost stories all make me smile.
I’m one of those annoying people who insists the outdoor lights and indoor tree go up as soon as possible after Remembrance Day, and I’m grateful that, on the calendar, Canadian Thanksgiving is nicely separated from the Christmas holidays.
I also believe in the symbolism of Santa.
The secular idea of a jolly old elf who slides down the chimney in a red suit to fill stockings with gifts can be traced to both a saint named Nicholas and an 1823 poem by Clement Clarke Moore, A Visit from St. Nicholas.
For me, Santa represents kindness and generosity.
When I was quite young, my family lived in Soest, Germany, near the Canadian brigade headquarters at Fort Henry, where my dad was stationed.
I believed in Santa because every December for four years, my Canadian forces pilot father picked him up at the North Pole in a helicopter and delivered him to the children’s Christmas party at the mess.
As an adult, I treasure the memories of that magical childhood wonder.
The City of Maple Ridge always does a great job of creating a magical atmosphere with the holiday lighting downtown.
I particularly appreciate the beautiful red bells along 224th Street and their history.
This year, the city has outdone itself with Glow Maple Ridge, and the display will remain up until Jan. 5.
Of course, I look forward to the season for more than the shiny decorations and nostalgia. I love the widespread, heightened sense of family, community and service to others.
Local organizations and volunteers work hard year-round, but the public seems most receptive to their messages at this time of year.
The Salvation Army’s annual Christmas kettle campaign is underway. In support of the Friends in Need Food Bank and the Christmas Hamper Society, on Saturday, Dec. 14, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Maple Ridge Fire and Rescue will collect cash, new toys and non-perishable food items at several local grocery stores.
On Monday, Dec. 16, the CP Holiday Train will roll into Maple Ridge at 7:50 p.m. and stop across from the Billy Miner Pub. Volunteers will be collecting non-perishable food for the Friends in Need Food Bank.
Charities shine a light on the ongoing needs of the less fortunate in our communities, and acts of giving foster empathy and connections.
This past couple of years, I’ve noted increasing calls for government to take over the role of charities through greater taxation and government-determined fund distribution.
I wonder if proponents have considered what we’d lose with their approach? A lot, I expect, including some of the threads that strengthen our community and mitigate ‘us vs. them’ attitudes.
The holidays sharpen our focus on family and community, and on ways to come together and help and support each other.
A true gift would be to find ways to maintain the best parts past the season.
Author Harland Miller said it well: “I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month.”
This year, the Christmas holidays can perhaps offer a reprieve from the increasing avalanche of concerning political and world issues, and a breather from relentless prognostications of doom. It’s an opportunity for a reset before the new year, so we can tackle the challenges with renewed energy and empathy.
Traditionally, at Christmas, many pray for peace on earth. This year, the world also needs a lot more hope and one of my biggest wishes is for our children to be free to be children because we, as adults, are taking seriously our responsibility to protect their future.
During the holidays, looming geo-political issues don’t go away. But for a couple of short weeks, this is a time for family, friends and community.
Katherine Wagner is a member of the
Citizens’ Task Force on Transparency,
a former school trustee and member of Golden Ears Writers.