By Maynard van der Galien
The weekend after Remembrance Day a CTV reporter gave a report on a Santa Claus parade for the supper hour news and cheerfully exclaimed, “Its only 40 days until Christmas and I havent even started my Christmas shopping.”
Oh my, I thought, when is it supposed to start?
A poll last year asked what people like least about Christmas and the holidays. Fully one-third of Americans cited the commercialization of the season. Twenty-two per cent said they disliked the heavy expenses associated with the holidays, and 10 per cent dreaded holiday shopping and crowds.
Most of us would agree that Christmas has become the opposite of what it is supposed to be. Celebrating the birth of Jesus, a time of joy and family get-togethers has turned into a few weeks of stress.
For many people, spending money on glitter and gifts is enjoyable. But do you ever wish we could bring back a time when Christmas was about simple celebrations, centred around family and church?
It seems easier said than done and all too easy to get caught up in the commercial trap that Christmas has become. There are ways to have a more old-fashioned family Christmas that can inspire you to put the joy back into your Christmas celebrations. But it does take time and effort. It means being willing to spend time making rather than buying, and spending time with family rather than providing a gift overload.
My nephew and his girlfriend are planning on having an old-fashioned Christmas with us this year. My nieces and nephew always spent a few weeks each summer at our cottage when they were growing up. The kids were used to city life, so being in a cottage with no television and no friends was quite a change. Interestingly, now that the kids are adults and live and work in the city, they dislike the Toronto traffic and find the cottage environment peaceful and relaxing.
Adam and Stephanie had a week off at Thanksgiving and spent it at our cottage. What amazed me was that they left all the modern gadgets at home no laptops, videos or smartphones. The Internet doesnt work up there. The small lake is very quiet during the off-season; cottagers are gone. They hiked in the woods. They canoed. They walked. They made home-cooked meals. They played games and cards. They slept in.
Now theyre planning to come back for Christmas, when they hope to go on a horse-pulled sleigh ride and pick out a tree at a Christmas tree farm. Maybe theyll even come to church with us on Christmas Day.
We dont know how lucky we are living in the country. Bed-and-breakfast websites list all kinds of retreats in our area, such as yurts in the forest, cabins on the river, cottages with no hydro or plumbing and entire houses off the grid.
They are all busy accommodating visitors to the Valley. Visitors love the fresh air, quiet roads, the privacy, the beauty, a gentle adventure and seeing stars and moonlit skies. Some folks dont care if theres no electricity. Its a paradise, they say.
Can you image the delight city folks have staying in a century-old cedar log cottage, built using an open concept and heated by a wood stove? It is an ideal place for a retreat or a peaceful getaway. Its perfect for seekers of solitude and the natural surrounding nourishes body and soul.
One woman said the people who come to their island cottage the only amenities are a propane range and a barbecue arent looking just to be off-the-grid. They want privacy and quiet.
Ah, getting away from it all. Who needs to shop and shop?
This Christmas season may you unwrap the greatest of all presents the quiet presence of Gods son in your life!
Maynard van der Galien spends time at the farm and the cottage at a nearby lake.