Our grandson Liam from Australia came to Alberta for Christmas and was thrilled to sit on Santa’s’ knee and roll in the snow for the very first time. Photo submitted

REFLECTIONS: Sharing our favourite memories of Christmases

By Mike Rainone for the News

At this always busy but jolly time of the year we will hopefully be able to take some precious time to sit down together with family and friends and share treats and cheer while flipping through our old photo albums and fondly laughing and reminiscing about favourite memories of Christmases past in and around Ponoka. For all of our families and acquaintances, no matter how old we may be, our festive treasure chests will always be plum full of joyous adventures, and here are some that we can share for this time around.

As soon as the calendar turns into December, the snow is usually on the ground, and everyone young and old in our town and county were looking forward to the School Christmas concerts and countless other community events. How great it is that at this time of the year the sparkling indoor and outdoor light and decorative displays appear around every corner, young and old alike are out on shopping sprees, and maybe we may even get a sneak peak of jovial old Santa Claus? Maybe some of you will vividly recall way back in the mid 1950s on a day when the weather was so bad that he had to abandon his sleigh and reindeer in a snow drift and was flown into Ponoka in a helicopter, which landed to the thrill of hundreds behind the CPR train station? As parents and grandparents we are always so proud to see our children or grandchildren sitting on Santa’s knee for the first time, and that the joyful glee and the odd tear on their faces is a joy that we will never forget. Other festive and fun events in and around the community at this time over the years may have also included bumpy but refreshing sleigh rides complete with bells and blankets, as well as skating on the outdoor rinks, sliding on the Golf Course hills, shooshing along the trails, and lots of visiting and parties with family and friends.

Another grand tradition of days gone by included packing up the whole family and heading out into the wilderness to look for the perfect tree for everyone’s living room, which would hopefully not turn out to be a “Charlie Brown” when it thawed out. Our dear mothers would usually stay in the car with the hot chocolate and cookies, while we wandered through the snow and finally found a magnificent spruce, helped Dad chop it down and then carefully stuffed it into the trunk and headed home. As kids we always had to sit down and be patient as the trunk had to be fashioned to fit into our homemade or store-bought tree stand, and then it was finally time to take turns putting on the decorations, including lights, icicles, steamers (including strings of popcorn), fancy bulbs, and all the rest. At the end of the fun evening the grand tradition was for Dad or Grandpa to hoist the youngest child up to the top of the tree to place the tattered but sparkling angel, which has been in the family for generations. The rest of the house will always be decorated with cherished family heirlooms from Christmases so long ago and there will of course be bowls full of treats to nibble on … but watch out everyone, because the mistletoe is hanging everywhere. Everyone’s home always looks fabulous and family friendly over the holiday season, and it is great to drive around at night and check out the amazing displays, and if we have a little extra space and time it is also nice to take out someone who is shut-in or unable to drive.

What a thrill it always is to prepare for our Christmas concerts at school, as well as up at the Alberta Hospital for the longstanding “at home” party for the staff children. As class-mates and friends we got to dress up as Mary and Joseph, or as angels, Kings, shepherd’s, sheep, and all the rest that will always be so wonderful about the age-old nativity scene. At these gala functions we also got to let loose and sing at the top of our voices, with everyone joining in on the song and looking forward to the scrumptious meal and treats that followed. Many of us will also remember attending the traditional Alberta Hospital Christmas family dinners at the AHP, and as members of the Ponoka Rising Sun Club House we also were invited to a great party in the dining room, where everyone received a gift. The program also featured entertainment, and our Club House Choir got to sing, mostly out of tune, but joyously cheered by the appreciative gathering of patients and staff.

Occasionally we got to go holiday shopping with our parents, but always having to promise with all our hearts and fingers-crossed not to wander off or misbehave. Later when we snuck off in separate directions to buy a gift for a family member, friend, or sweetheart it was always really tough to keep a secret all the way to Christmas morning. Of course we had all made our gift wish lists real early and changed them many times, but now we had better get into the mood of being extra good, going to bed on time, and helping out around the house, at least for the week before the gala day arrives in all its glory. Christmas Day always comes up real quick, and whether we are ready or not we will head off to the Dec. 24 church service and then come back home to relax and snack and try to get a few hours nap before the early morning madness develops around the tree. A little later somewhere in a quiet corner of the house Dad’s long woolen socks were being filled with treats, the milk and goodies were put out for Santa, and all the little children would claim that they heard some bells and ho-ho-ho’s outside before they quickly went to sleep.

In the morning it was up and early at the crack of dawn, or when we were allowed, then a quick breakfast first and finally time to open the gifts amongst a steady chorus of oohs and aahs with delight and thank you’s. Once everything had settled down just a little it was time to help prepare and then sit down together for that glorious and traditional Christmas Day meal with family and friends. For the younger set it is now that special time to enjoy the holiday break from school, maybe head out on a family holiday, as well as starting to make some exciting plans and resolutions for another year, just around the corner. Sincere wishes from our family to yours for a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and thanks for those very precious memories of days gone by!

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