Reflections of Ponoka: It will always be the most wonderful time of the year

Among the many wonders and attractions of the Christmas season is that families, friends, and communities of all ages and nationalities can celebrate the glorious occasion in the same warm and fuzzy traditions and heritage that have been cherished and enjoyed for countless generations.

One of the long-standing December traditions during the early years up to the late 1950s was a trip into the country to gather Christmas trees for all the wards at the Provincial Mental Hospital (Centennial Centre-Ponoka).

One of the long-standing December traditions during the early years up to the late 1950s was a trip into the country to gather Christmas trees for all the wards at the Provincial Mental Hospital (Centennial Centre-Ponoka).

Among the many wonders and attractions of the Christmas season is that families, friends, and communities of all ages and nationalities can celebrate the glorious occasion in the same warm and fuzzy traditions and heritage that have been cherished and enjoyed for countless generations. Over the years folks have found many unique ways to ring in this special and historic holiday, and as you all prepare and get into the spirit for your 2009 Yuletide celebration, I thought I would touch on a few of those joyful moments and traditions that we have and will always look forward to sharing together once again.

*Whether we have a store-bought or real Christmas tree, it will always sparkle and look fabulous when the whole family gathers around to decorate it. There may be no more popcorn strings or candles, but I am sure that the majestic angel on the top has been in your family for generations.

*For decades everyone has looked forward to the Christmas Eve church service…. a joyous celebration of the true meaning of the occasion shared among family and friends with prayer and song.

*We still have to dress warm to go skating on the pond or outdoor rink over the holidays. How great it is to snuggle up on those old wooden benches or frozen snow banks and enjoy yummy hot chocolate, hot-dogs, and marshmallows burned to perfection on a roaring bonfire.

*Over the years our decoration mode has changed just a little both inside and out, with more flashing lights and noise, but they will always shine brightly and generate that same old sparkle of the season at hand. Please don’t forget to throw in a little mistletoe to put everyone in a giddy romantic mood, some may still roast chestnuts on an open fire, and absolutely nothing can replace old-fashioned eggnog (spiked if you wish), and homemade Christmas pudding doused in sherry.

*After the stockings have all been hung in a row we will gather around as always and share our favourite Xmas stories, watch Ebenezer Scrooge on television, listen to music, nibble on all sorts of goodies, and maybe even allow a little peek and shake of all those gifts under the tree. No matter what age you are I double dare anyone not to have that delightful tingle of excitement and visions of whatever you may wish on Christmas Eve, and don’t you dare forget to put out milk and cookies for the jolly old gent with the long white beard.

*I am sure that there will always be those hardy souls who bundle up and wander throughout the neighbourhoods singing glorious Christmas carols, some now even bringing along their I-pods to stay in tune? Whereever you may crunch through the new-fallen snow one can’t help but notice that the stars are always brighter on that night before Christmas, and most of the homes we grace with our song will offer lots of welcome cheer and warm refreshments.

*For many busy days before the magic of Dec. 25 and in between shopping sprees, office parties, and all sorts of concerts and events; it is a real treat to relax and drive slowly around our community and enjoy the magnificent Christmas light displays. If you have a little time, maybe invite some one else along for the evening adventure, or take advantage of the sparkle tours on the warm and comfy Lion’s bus.

*When you and I were kids we used to try and sneak down-stairs on Christmas morning at 4 a.m., but it was always breakfast first before invading the tree and creating squeals of joy and piles of colored paper and ribbons. As a boy I jumped in a frenzy from one gift to another, as a dad it was great to hand out all the presents in organized order, but now as a grandpa I just love sitting back in the Lazy Boy and watching the merry excitement of the magic morning.

*During a moment of calm it is time to phone loved ones and friends who are far away and couldn’t make it home for the holidays; as well as shut-ins or those that we know who may be sick or hospitalized.

If we forgot to send a card, e-mail now makes it easier to stay in touch nowadays; right down to sharing the sounds and pictures of the super day with just the push of a button.

*It is also time to tidy up all that mess around the living room, thank everyone for their kindness and gifts, and maybe relax in our rooms and try to figure out some of those new games and gizmos. Please be nice and give old dad a chance to win at Nintendo, play checkers with your little sister, and be sure to try on that beautiful sweater that grandma started knitting for everyone month ago.

*Time for a little fresh air before dinner? How about a brisk walk in the frosty air, a toboggan or sleigh ride, build a snowman, or a quick game of road hockey with dad in goal and grandpa as the referee? Later in the afternoon they might hitch up the horses for a sleigh ride, fire up that new snow machine, or dress up and go visiting relatives or friends.

*Meanwhile, mom and grandma are busy preparing that sumptuous and always traditional meal with all the trimmings. The results and aromas are always tantalizing and the magnificent feast is only equaled by the colourful seasonal table settings and the extreme spirit of love, warmth, friendship, and fond memories enjoyed by each and every gathering of family and guests on this very special holiday occasion.

*Over the years Boxing Day has changed just a little; and while many sleep in and nibble on leftover treats, others rush out into the absolute mayhem of sales and exchanges! For the children it is the beginning of a long school holiday with lots of playtime and no homework, and maybe even a family getaway?

*Amongst all that hospitality and joy of giving this Christmas of 2009 will hopefully be a very special time for all ages. As we give thanks for all that we have been blessed with we must always remember our brave soldiers everywhere, as well as those many families and individuals who are facing tough times during this holiday season. As well as looking forward to the bright future of another year, we must always strive to find a little time to share our gifts of care and compassion with family, old friends, new friends, and those who may some how reach out to all of us.

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