Christmas across the generations

As the years go by, the joy of the holiday season as stays the same, James Gordon writes

Holidays are always a lot of fun for children, but for me, nothing compared to the excitement I had as a kid at Christmastime.

Everyone, it seems, has traditions from when they were kids that carry over when they have families of their own. Certainly, I have fond memories of staying up way later than usual on Christmas Eve, when my mom’s French-Canadian family would celebrate réveillon.

And there were the presents, of course. I remember this one year, all I wanted, more than anything in the world, was a Legend of Zelda Nintendo cartridge. As I opened my gifts, my parents kept telling me to save one of them for last because it was just a boring old sweater. After all the other presents were opened and I came to the sad realization that my Zelda dream was dead, they handed me the sweater box and, sure enough, there the game was at the bottom of the package. I lost my mind, of course.

It’s funny, though, the things that wind up sticking with you most from when you were young.

For some reason, my most vivid memories were of the quiet moments after waking up really early in the morning as maybe a seven or eight year old leading up to Christmas (I was always the first one up), plugging in the Christmas tree, and just laying under the branches in the darkness and looking up at those multicoloured lights. For some reason, nothing made me happier than that. I can also still see, clear as day, all the unique, lit-up decorations that dotted my grandparents’ apartment on those late réveillon nights.

I often wonder what my two sons will remember most about this time of year, given they’re both around the same age as I was when the Christmas season had the biggest impact on me.

Will it be our trips to the tree farm to ride on a wagon, cut down our own fir and have some hot chocolate and a cookie? Will it be the LED Christmas train village we got from Costco, a throwback to those decorations at my grandparents’ place? Will it be late Christmas Eve nights, like mine? Although Christmas Day was always the bigger deal to my wife’s side of the family, we’ve always made sure to host a casual, fun family party the night before.

Will it be the tradition my wife instituted of giving them new Christmas pajamas that night? Will it be all the holiday hockey tournaments that are suddenly a part of our lives, with the extra days off and related activities, like fundraising for Toy Mountain?

Whatever the case may be, we’ve always tried our best to make this a light, fun, special time of year.

That includes more grown up traditions that have evolved with us. One of my favourites is when my oldest friend from back home comes to visit us, usually in mid-November, and we re-watch the best grown-up Christmas movies, like Die Hard and Die Hard 2 (and yes, they are Christmas movies!) or my personal favourite, The Ref, over drinks.

No matter the challenges we’ve faced in our lives or what our ages are, the weeks leading up to Christmas have always been a nice boost before the really grim part of winter sets in.

My hope is that in making Christmas really memorable for my boys, they’ll get that same boost from really embracing all the wonderful things this season brings and carry it over to their own families.