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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

Warm thoughts in winter 

BY Sonny Orr Jan 10, 2024

The holidays “slid” by rapidly. Those toboggan rides with the grandchildren took some getting used to, as I am pretty sure that climbing back up the hill wasn’t in my contract. After a few runs – the going down part taking a few seconds versus the endless return trip – it made me appreciate the strength it takes to do this all day. 

Some kids are meant for outdoor activities and sliding downhill at excessive speed. It made me worry about possible medical trips for broken bones. But it was all good, as the wipeouts happened in snow four feet deep. Besides, it’s a lot of fun.

Sometimes I think back to the days when dogs were tough and could pull more than their weight on sleds made with sealskin lashings and frozen fish for runners. Those memories have been replaced by dogs that fit in your pocket and sleds made from non-recyclable plastics that, once broken, will live on for thousands of years in the dumps of our beautiful backyard called Eeyou Istchee. At least the old sleds were organic and could return to the land virtually overnight.

Christmas has changed too, since it became a global event in countries where Christianity is still practiced, a time of cheer and retrospectives to round off a good, middling or bad year. The nice thing about it is that it will return next year, so the cycle continues. Isn’t there supposed to be a year off every century or so, like a leap Christmas?

Later in the evenings, the annual gathering for community games, feasts and other fun things – all designed to either brighten up lives or generate a lot of holiday spirit – have taken some toll on the people’s ample urges for holiday fun. For me, it’s the quiet moments for reflection during the power-down sessions as the kids sleep and nice music is played to calm the soul. 

For a while, I had Red Rider’s classic rock Christmas tune spinning around in the back of my mind. Sometimes, just hanging some missing lights on the tree or climbing up to the roof for last-minute decorations cranked up the adrenaline when the ladder would slip with you on it. Again, thanks to deep snow, no emergency medical trip was required.

Ho ho ho, for a merry old soul like me, as I wipe clean my white whiskers after downing some cold chocolat chaud. I hang out under the mistletoe for a chance surprise and some good old chuckling. 

I wonder where that tradition came from? I hypothesized that long ago that baby Jesus was just so cute and cuddly that three wise dudes bent down and kissed his chubby little cheeks, thus starting a New World tradition. Somehow, another old dude got involved and hung mistletoe everywhere just to get lucky with the ladies, at least once a year. For added luck, he bribed the kids to sleep early with little gifts early the next morning. 

I forget how eggnog got involved but that’s usually the case with me every year. So traditionally, we have changed a little but added a lot more traditions, like the day-to-day countdown for Christmas and the second-by-second countdown for New Year’s. Combined with shopping sprees, online events and the ability to talk to Santa on your smartphone and enjoy the rest of the world as it plays out in real time with the specials emailed to your inbox. 

Naw… give me a crackling fireplace and a mug of chocolat chaud, please.

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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.