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Prepping for Christmas

BY Sonny Orr Dec 16, 2022

I used to think that putting up Christmas decorations right after Halloween was rather early. But now, more than a month later, I realize the wisdom of that logic. It’s akin to shopping for presents before the December madness that has tortured us for the last century. Or you could think of it as the need to gather provisions before the cold weather arrives. 

I always liked Christmas and what it meant. I’m talking about the mystery behind the reason we go nuts in the shopping malls. The need to give and receive is relatively recent; most of our people simply did not have the money to spend on gifts until the past couple of generations. 

As the population grew along with the number of retail outlets across the continent during the last century, the desire to give overcame the traditional concept of Christmas. In other words, the birth of a certain being who would, centuries later, become a driving force in a belief system. 

Around Christmas, the outlines of those belief systems get a little blurry. Now generalized to “The Holidays”, this part of the year means we have some time off from the daily grind we endure in order make the money we need to spend during those holidays. Ahh, life in general, never a simple concept.

As I look out across the frozen landscape called my backyard, I see that others, only a few degrees lower in latitude, are walking in running shoes through gloriously sunny and snowless terrain. This, even as they complain that their footwear is getting too acclimatized to southern Canada. Will someone once again come up with moccasins to cover just about every temperature range and humidity index? That’s on my Christmas wish list.

Only 1,000 kilometres away, late fall is still present and waiting for that funny thing called winter. I meet seasoned travellers from the far north who complain about the cold in the south. “It’s cold to the bones,” claimed one recent traveller returning home to Inuit country. 

I wasn’t surprised. I’ve spent many a winter in the so-called south, only to find the snowless city almost unbearably cold. Every inch of exposed skin was a candidate for frostbite. Amazingly, I survived Montreal’s humid winters, and vowed never to complain about our dry cold that stays outside and doesn’t penetrate below a few layers of normal winter clothing. At least our dry northern snow is clean and free of slush until April.

I used to think that Christmas was a great time for everyone. A time to reflect on our blessings and to perform or benefit from a random act of kindness that reinforced that Christmassy feeling in an old grouch like me. 

On occasion, I would get a little sad around this time. But that’s now pretty much behind me as I welcome the cries of joy from the little grandchildren who repopulate our empty nest, filling it with happiness. Yes, all that work, sacrifice and other little things like blood, sweat and tears are washed away by sharing love, friendship and happiness with children. I’ve now hung up my Grinch outfit for good.

On that note, some rules for Christmas:

First, believe in Santa Claus, mainly because he can take the blame for that ugly sweater or duplicate coffee pot – or because he forgot to make a gift for the cousin or nephew who you see only once a year. Who? Oh yeah, the kid in the middle! 

Don’t forget about chocolate. You never go wrong with chocolate. 

The usual fruitcake? Try the artisan kind. Those are never wasted in the garbage only to become worm food when the ice melts. 

Finally, socks are the best gift. They are something you can lose but always need. 

So, as the days wind down to Christmas stocking time again, let’s not forget to thank Santa – with plenty of electronic money transfers, please! The milk and cookies only go so far! Sorry, that’s the Grinch in me that I forgot to put away. Happy Holidays everyone!

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Sonny Orr is Cree from Chisasibi, and has been a columnist for the Nation for over 20 years. He regularly pens Rez Notes from the cozy social club in Whapmagoostui where he resides.