Putting The I In Christmas

December 12, 2011 § 3 Comments

Christmas tree icon

Image via Wikipedia

It’s that time of year again – the season that begins with festive décor emerging in the stores early in the fall and ends with many people making pledges they won’t keep.

Christmas time means something different to everyone. I’m not going to rant about the over-commercialization and out-of-control spending of the season. That becomes obvious in January when the credit card bills arrive.

Although I was raised in the Church where they celebrate “true meaning of Christmas” tradition, I’m also not the person to write on that topic. Still others in society don’t celebrate the season at all for religious reasons.

Kathleen Smith, a friend in Edmonton, provided food for thought in a recent Facebook status update. It helped underline that Christmas is really an individual thing.

Kathleen wrote: “Let hope fill our hearts. Shine a light through the dark. All around the world and everywhere, this is my Christmas prayer.

“Yes, I know I’m a self-proclaimed Atheist, but it’s CHRISTMAS for heaven’s sake! ;-).”

Although I consider myself a small ‘c’ Christian, Kathleen’s remarks resonated with me, so here was my response:

“Then that is what your season is about: giving thanks, spreading joy and hope, using the holidays to spend much-deserved time with family and friends.”

“Thank you, David 😉 That’s exactly what it is for me,” Kathleen responded.

“Although I was raised in the Church, the season is all about family and friends and taking me time. I can’t stand all the commercialism,” I replied.

Kathleen responded with: “This is the one time a year I allow my crusty, hard old broad exterior to crumble. I believe in Christmas; its message of peace and love and family. Christmas reconnects me with humanity, disconnects me from being jaded and bitter.”

I remember very few individual gifts but have many special memories of the holiday season. You will notice a trend amongst my highlights.

There was 1984 when my car was out of commission, having been hit just a few days before Christmas. My friends Darrell and Kathy Skidnuk, who were travelling to Edmonton to visit family, gave me a ride so I could spend the holidays with Joyce.

We whiled away the time rockin’ out to tunes with me in the backseat using the snow brush as an air guitar.

For Christmas 1985 (a green Christmas … yayyyy), Howard Elliott, publisher of the Daily Herald-Tribune, and his wife Pearl, hosted all the orphans from the paper (those who had no family in town and were not travelling for the holidays). The following year, Joyce and I did the honours at our apartment.

Joyce and I were reminiscing about that holiday celebration just the other day, particularly the food involved. One of the guests prepared a most memorable crab bisque.

For Christmas 1987, our first in Sault Ste. Marie, the best thing was that Joyce arrived just in time to join me for the Big Day. We’d had to live apart about a month as we made the transition from Alberta to Ontario.

Christmas 1989 was our first with Peter. We didn’t put up a tree that year with a toddler just beginning to roam. Between him and Sammi, our first dog, we thought the ornaments would be in jeopardy.

We used a poinsettia on the coffee table as a tree.

Christmases between 1991 and 2006 were shared with our friends Jeni and Jim Rice and their daughters, Erin and Mackenzie. Neither couple had family in the community so we became the next best thing, taking turns hosting each year. A couple of times, Jeni’s parents joined in from Pennsylvania. Jim’s mom came up a few times from Toronto. Once, my brother Dennis visited from Edmonton.

Our first Christmas with the Rices illustrated why we were as good as family. Jeni underestimated the time to cook the huge bird she’d purchased and dinner was delayed until about 8 p.m. No worries, we had plenty of snacks and wine.

Speaking of making spirits bright, Jeni’s dad, Bill, poured the best glass of scotch! It was always a highlight guessing what fruit combination Jim would come up with for his sumptuous pie.

This year, we will be visiting Peter in Edmonton, getting down to the provincial capital a couple of days ahead of the World Junior Hockey Championship. We have tickets to five games.

Notice how none of these memories involve gifts wrapped with care under the tree? I also didn’t insist we put the ‘Christ’ in Christmas. All my favourite festive thoughts revolve around family, friend and food.

While Kathleen is an atheist and I am a believer, we both agree that this time of year is about celebrating the good things in life, remembering family and friends near and far, looking after the less fortunate, and looking forward with hopes the world will be a better place.

I think that is what Christ would want.

Regardless of how you feel about the season, I wish you all the best for a safe and joyous season.  All the best for a healthy and prosperous 2012.

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Moshin’ and a-rollin’

September 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

This summer, I attended two different day long music festivals.  One was Warped Tour, the other was the Sonic Boom Festival.  Both were in Edmonton and set up at Northlands.

I’ve been going to concerts and outdoor shows much like these two for over a decade. It was odd watching the shows through my nearly thirty something eyes.  I looked at the young kids at the shows and remembered what I thought of people my age when I was their age.

“Oh my god they’re so old. I’m never coming to a show like this when I’m that old, they’re so out-of-place.  Don’t they know they’re too OLD?”

The perspective was based out of what nearly 30 somethings are supposed to be doing.  When you’re this age you should be married and settled down, possibly with a couple of kids, a steady job and a house.  People who have those don’t go to punk or rock shows.  Once life starts, you aren’t allowed to have any more fun.

And I suppose there are a group of people who actually do live that way, after all, the stereotype had to come from somewhere.  And yet there I was, with other nearly 30 somethings, and some over 30 somethings, at each show.  Hanging out.  Enjoying the music.

Mosh Pit Warped Tour 2005

There is one major difference in how I participate in the shows though.  The mosh pit.  That’s right, back in the good old days I was right smack dab in the middle of it.  I’d mosh all day and emerge from the pit, my hair a mess, and smelling like only a kid in a mosh pit could smell… the odour of other people’s sweat mixed with my own, perhaps the fumes of somebody’s joint or cigarette mixed in.  Oh yes, somehow that was a desirable state to leave a concert in.  These days, I appreciate the music from afar.  I enjoy being able to see and hear what’s going on over attempting to support a crowd of body surfers above me while holding my own in a gnarled pit of other teenagers there to jump around while pushing and shoving one another in a mild form of chaos.

The rock show pit is much like I remembered it.  Disorderly, unruly.  Some moshers were watching out for their felling pitters, but many had no regard for those around them.  They would jump, push, shove, whatever they wanted to break through a crowd, trampling any in their way.  Experiencing it first hand at Edmonton’s Sonic Boom Festival reminded me of why I quit trying to be in the centre of that crowd.

Warped Tour was a different story.  Find yourself a pit at Warped Tour, and you’re more likely to encounter what is known as the circle pit.  I have no idea where this concept originated, but it is the most orderly mosh pit I have ever seen.

Everyone knows what to do in a circle pit, when one starts to form, the crowd that wishes not to participate backs up to make room.  As soon as the space is there, participants start to run around in a great big circle.  Yes, they run.  And they’re all going in the same direction.  There’s no body surfing in a circle pit, because there aren’t enough people to support body surfing.

Watching one particular pit, there was a point where many of the moshers stopped running around in a circle, and then started to do the same moves.  It looked like they could have been kick boxing.  It didn’t look like most of them knew each other, and yet they all knew the same pattern of moves.  Had they been close together, they surely would have hit one another.  And yet, in the confines of the circle pit, they had enough room and nobody got hurt.

Ten years ago, the pits at both shows probably would have been very similar.  I find it intriguing now to see the subculture that’s morphed over the years into the different scenes I saw before me at these two shows.  And it surprises me that those at the punk/metal show appear to have developed more regard for one another at their events than those at the rock show.  They seem more harsh on the outside, but what I’ve observed tells me differently.  What I see here is more community than we’d ever get from the mainstream.

I’m no anthropologist. But how this subculture developed is of interest to me.  Did it have anything to do with a stronger sense of identity for the Warped Tour crowd?  Or was it all just one big coincidence?  And on a sidenote, if I were growing up in today’s youth, I wonder which group I’d identify with more?

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