Christmas memories at their best

Around Christmas, nearing the year's end, new memories of family and giving are created.
Here are some Christmas memories that serve as personal favorites in the eyes of our community leaders. Some are as simple as family gatherings and other hold traditions close to their hearts

By Jasmine Franklin

Around Christmas, nearing the year’s end, new memories of family and giving are created.

Here are some Christmas memories that serve as personal favorites in the eyes of our community leaders. Some are as simple as family gatherings and other hold traditions close to their hearts.

A road trip to surprise mom and dad

Eight years ago, MLA Ray Prins and his wife, Pauline, were prepared for an empty-nested Christmas. With four children all grown up, it was the first Christmas for the couple alone without the kids.

“We didn’t make any big plans,” Prins said. “We decided we would just decorate the tree – if we even got one – and just have a quite Christmas.”

But their children had other plans.

“Three of our four kids hopped in a little car and drove from Vancouver to surprise us,” he chuckled.”

Along the way, they chopped down their very own Christmas tree to deliver and strapped it to the car. In the meantime, their fourth child was on the way in from Edmonton.

“We looked in the driveway and saw this little car strapped with a huge tree,” Prins said. “It is the best Christmas memory we have. Our holiday went from being a quiet Christmas to a house full of our entire family home again.”

Two Christmases and one birthday

What’s better than one Christmas? Just ask Blaine Calkins, Wetaskiwin MP.

Every holiday season is a meaningful one for Calkins, filled with two Christmases and his own Christmas birthday.

“Picking one memory is hard to do; the last 20 Christmases have been wonderful since I met my wife,” Calkins said. “As time marches on, I’m thankful for ever year.”

Calkins, wife, Barbara, and children, Eryk, Kassandra, and Krystian celebrate Christmas in two different ways.

“On Christmas Eve we have a Polish Christmas: meals are with fish and we wish our family wellness and health.”

Then the family takes part in a traditional Christmas, honoring Jesus and serves up fun on the farm with activities such as sleigh rides, fishing and “eating far too much food.”

This year, Calkins will celebrate his 41st birthday on Christmas Day, and with his long-time wisdom gave some insight to the Ponoka News of his favourite Christmas song.

“The Little Drummer Boy,” Calkins said. “It tells the story and I love the drums and percussions. It’s well done.”

Calkins chuckled and added one more last comment in regards to the song.

“It’s also within my vocal range,” he laughed. “It sends the message of hope and celebrates the birth of Jesus which is really what Christmas is all about.”

The Jess girls

“My favorite Christmas memory is growing up at home with my four cousins we all called the Jess girls,” said Lori Jess, board chair for Wolf Creek School Division. “They would come home after church, we’d have a big meal, get all bundled up then go moto- skiing, which is basically like ski-dooing.”

The girls would stay outside for hours playing on the farmland that she still lives on today.

“We did that for as far back as I can remember,” Jess said. “It must have been from the ages of five or six until about 13.”

Jess giggled as she recalled whenever it was time for the girls to go home they would take off in the backyard “all bundled up and not come back.”

“We still talk about those days,” she said. “It’s amazing how we still have that special bond.”

“They’re my girls,” she said.

The cousins try and get together at least a few times every year.

Jess recalls the favourite Christmas gift she ever gave was a pair of sheepskin slippers to her husband. He had worn out his old pair so she thought it was time for new ones and threw out the old.

“These feel so good I’ll never taken them off,” she recalls him saying.

“He asked me where his old slippers were and I told him I threw them out – he was so mad,” she laughed.

When she reminded her husband he had the new pair she looked at her and said, “But these one’s aren’t broken in.”

Mayor Henkelman or Santa Claus?

When you think of Mayor Larry Henkelman you often don’t picture a pleasantly plump man in a red suit or white beard – well that is, most of us don’t – but last year, Henkelman made the perfect Santa for his seven grandchildren.

“It was pretty exciting,” Henkelman said. “Their eyes were full of sparkles when they saw Santa Claus.”

All under the age of 12, the children looked into the eyes of their glamorous Santa to see a big teddy bear of their own – grandpa.

Henkelman said the children still have no idea of his disguise and he hopes to do it again.

“Getting in the Christmas spirit and seeing the whole family together is the best thing,” Henkelman said.

Anyone looking for a soft spot in the mayor’s heart can be sure to get there with his favourite Christmas drink of hot chocolate and marshmallows.

Christmas in India

Tied together with a ribbon and sealed with a Royal Canadian Air Force stamp, this 65-year-old Christmas card was sent from a place where holidays didn’t seem real.

“We were all young and a long way from home,” said Walter Burchnall, ex-Royal Canadian Air Force pilot. “I sent the card to my folks from India during the war.”

The RCAF made up Christmas cards for the soldiers to send home and inside each card the same message was typed:

“From the land where the tireless mosquitoes sing,

And the eye flies buzz and punkahs swing,

And the sun beats bright on the burning sand,

Unto you, and home, in our Nativeland

I send, What I Wish I were there to say,

Plenty Salaams this Christmas Day,

Health, Wealth and Prosperity bethine,


Walter Burchnall”

“Punkahs are fans and salaam is a greeting in India,” Burchnall explained. “A lot of people might not know that.”

On the other side of the yellowed parchment, Burchnall wrote his own message.

“Wishing all the family a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, Love Walter.”

The card he sent out 65 years ago is back in his hands. After his mother passed away, it was among her possessions.

“I don’t remember if I got any cards while I was over there – I probably did,” he said.

“But we had to send our cards weeks in advance because they took so long to arrive, I mean, we were half way across the world.”

Mom’s engagement ring

Dorothy Houghton, Royal Canadian Legion Br.66 president, was eight years old when she witnessed one of her favorite Christmases.

“My mom and dad were married but she never had an engagement ring,” Houghton said. “So, my dad bought her one for Christmas and before he gave it to her, he had me check it out first.”

She was so excited for her mom to receive her gift that Houghton could not wait for Christmas morning.

“I was so excited to see her open it up,” she said. “Her face just lit up.”

Houghton laughed as she realized her favorite Christmas had nothing to do with her – it was the Christmas spirit.

The magic of grandchildren

“(When) we had our first Christmas with our grandchildren,” said Gordon Svenningsen, Reeve. “They were just fascinated by the lights and the tree.”

Svenningsen said that family is really what Christmas is all about.

“Little people make Christmas so exciting,” he said. “We can get ho hum about the season but they are just so excited.”

As for Christmas movies, even though it’s old school, Svenningsen a The Christmas Carol is still his favorite holiday season flick.