Monthly Archives: December 2012

Bits of Christmas

The holidays are drawing to a close and tomorrow we head south for a couple of months. We’ve had a lovely Christmas season. 

christmas card display

We received lots of good wishes from friends and relatives. 

family calendarWe had several nice family get togethers and celebrations. This is the calendar my sister-in-law makes each year to give to family members at Christmas with lots of photos of everyone on my side of the family and all the birthdays and anniversaries noted. ticket to ride game

We usually have a jig saw puzzle out for Christmas but with an eight month old around this year who loves to put everything in his mouth we thought that might be too dangerous. We opted for some game playing instead. Our younger son and his wife taught us Ticket to Ride and Qwirkle.

wafflesWe had lots of great food. A family favorite is waffles with home-made white sauce, fruit and bacon. I made it for our immediate family brunch. Other meals we shared included a turkey dinner with all the trimmings at my sisters, a lavish buffet at my aunt’s home, a half-dozen Christmas party spreads at the homes of friends, a pork tenderloin dinner with our children and a great lunch at Deer and Almond a Winnipeg restaurant that has been getting rave reviews. Before our older son and his family board the plane home we plan to take in a brunch at Stellas at the airport. 

winter in winnipegWe went for some walks in the beautiful area surrounding our Winnipeg Exchange District home. 

christmas stockingLots of gifts were given and received. The second and third generation each had a filled stocking with plenty of treats. Dave gave me tickets to four plays at Winnipeg theatres and the promise of a new bicycle when we get to Arizona. I can hardly wait. Dave did most of the Christmas shopping for family this year and opted for experiential gifts- golf games, restaurant certificates and theatre tickets.

program winnipeg singers christmas concertWe heard plenty of great Christmas music. Our daughter-in-law sings in the Winnipeg Singers and we went to their A Canadian Christmas concert which featured a reading of Margaret Laurence’s The Christmas Birthday Story.  We also saw our daughter-in-law direct her high school choirs at their Winter Concert and saw our son’s band perform. On Christmas Eve both our son and daughter-in-law had solos during the church service. 

The Friendly Beasts by Tomie de PaolaWe did lots of singing at my sister and brother-in-law ‘s house the night of our extended family gathering and when our immediate family  did our gift opening we sang three carols- The Friendly Beasts, The Huron Carol and Lo How A Rose. 

90th birthday

We celebrated my Aunt Vi’s 90th birthday during the Christmas season. She is the oldest member of my maternal extended family and here she is holding the youngest member of her family. 

It has been a busy, happy Christmas. I’m ready for 2013!

If you enjoyed this post you might also like………

Christmas in Hong Kong – Good Memories

Children’s Christmas Books- The Classics

The Magi Got Me Into Trouble

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Filed under Family, Holidays

Thai Traditions to End and Start a Year

As we prepare for the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013 I am reminded of two rituals I participated in during our visit to Chiang Mai Thailand.

Beautifully decorated Loy Krathong rafts on display in our Chiang Mai hotel lobby

Beautifully decorated Loy Krathong rafts on display in our Chiang Mai hotel lobby

Loy Krathong came first. ‘Loy’ means to float and a ‘krathong’ is a raft. Thai people make little rafts or boats out of banana leaves. They decorate them with flowers and burning incense sticks and set them afloat in rivers. Before you set your krathong to sail downstream you stop for a time to remember all your sin and suffering from the previous year. In your mind you load all those negative and sad thoughts and experiences onto the raft so when you release your krathong you are essentially floating your troubles away.releasing a lantern during loy krathong festival in thailand

Once your problems from the past are released with your krathong you are ready to make wishes for the future with a khom loi– a large hot air lantern created from rice paper. You light a small burner suspended on a metal brace at the bottom of the lantern and launch it into the sky at the same time as a fireworks display begins its colorful explosions. The khom loi carries your hopes and dreams for the future up to the heavens.  

lantern release

      Here is my husband Dave getting our khom loi ready for launching. As the lantern filled with hot air we had a hard time holding it down and finally it just whooshed out of our hands. It got caught briefly in a tall tree. My heart stopped for a minute because I was sure the branches would start on fire, but just then a gust of wind lifted the lantern and it went soaring up higher and higher. We watched it for a long time before it disappeared from releasing his lome koy in thailand chaing mai

The sky was peppered with hundreds of pinpoints of light as the people around us sent up their lanterns. Then the fireworks started exploding in the black sky. 

marylou and lantern kome loy festival chiang mai
Most of the prayers I sent up with our khom loi have been answered.

The rituals of Loy Krathong and Khom Loi are a meaningful way to reflect on the past year and make plans for the coming one. Although this year I won’t be floating a flower bedecked boat down a frozen Winnipeg river or letting a lantern loose in the middle of a chilly prairie winter I do want to make time to say good-bye to any negativity of 2012 and welcome 2013 with joy and hope. 

If you enjoyed this post you might also like……….

Christmas in Hong Kong- Good Memories

And So This is Christmas and What Have You Done

Winter in Winnipeg

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Filed under Culture, Holidays, Thailand, Travel

Les Miserables

les_miserables_ver11Saw Les Miserables tonight. The title translated means The Miserable.  You do see plenty of misery in this film, prisoners toiling in chains, the desperate prostitutes of Paris, massacred revolutionaries who die for the sake of a lost cause, men nearly drowning in sewage, abused child laborers living in filthy conditions, sly thieves stealing everything in sight and lots of people dying. The reviewer in the Winnipeg Free Press warned it was not a feel good kind of movie and he was right. This is not happy holiday fare. 

One person I attended the film with said, “There was too much singing”, and I tend to agree. The movie was three hours long and there was just too much stopping for characters to sing a long reflective piece about why they were taking a certain course of action. “Just do it”, I felt like saying and let the audience figure out why. 

I’ve seen Les Miserables on stage and I liked it better than the movie version, but the film did earn a round of applause from the audience tonight. I think for my next holiday movie I’ll choose something a little less filled with despair. Although in light of the somber and tragic news that has dominated the media this Christmas season perhaps a movie that reminds us of all the misery in our world is timely and realistic. 

The musical pieces do have some good hope inspiring lines worth remembering in the midst of sadness. “To love another person is to see the face of God.” “Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.”

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Christmas in Hong Kong- Good Memories

Christmas in Horizon Suites lobby

Christmas in Horizon Suites lobby

Many people have asked me what Christmas was like in Hong Kong and really in many ways it was not so different from in Canada. The apartment where we lived for three of our six years in Hong Kong was always decorated to the hilt with a tree in the main lobby.

Poinsettias in Horizon Suites

Poinsettia in Horizon Suites

One year I counted nearly a hundred poinsettia plants lining the stairs and hallways.

Christmas Tree in Festival Walk December 2010

Christmas Tree in Festival Walk December 2010

The Festival Walk shopping mall always had a massive tree that soared six stories high. Millions of Hong Kong dollars are spent on designing and decorating the tree with a different theme each year. 

Party for Refugee Children in Hong Kong

Party for Refugee Children in Hong Kong

Just like in Canada, in Hong Kong Christmas was a time to think about others. Here is my husband Dave clowning around with a group of refugee children. One year we took some of our high school students to a drop in program for refugee kids from many different countries and we hosted a Christmas party for them with gifts, food and games.

Peninsula Hotel at Christmas

Peninsula Hotel at Christmas

All the buildings down on the harbor front were decorated with amazing light displays for the holiday season. I took this photo of the ritzy Peninsula Hotel in 2010.

Christmas Party 2007

Christmas Party with my students

Christmas in Hong Kong was party time. Here I am with my advisory group. They all came to our apartment for a Christmas party. We had food and games and presents.

dave and conrad at christmas party
Parents of one of our students hosted a big Christmas party annually for teachers at their home. Here is Dave with our host Conrad. The food was a combination of German and Chinese traditional fare representing the two nationalities of our host family. Betty our hostess had gifts for all of us.

dim sum lunch hong kong
Of course the weather was just a little different in Hong Kong in December than it is in Canada. We took this photo with friends after a Christmas dim sum brunch.

dave dancingOur school had a Christmas program. Dave was called on stage one year to participate in a dance during the drama class’ presentation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. 

tsim tsa chu
Santa made his presence known in Hong Kong too. He decorated buildings down in Tsim Tsa Tsui.
dressing up like santa in hong kong
Here I’m sporting a Santa hat along with two of my teaching colleagues.

christmas singing tao fong shan
Tao Fong Shan our church in Hong Kong had a Christmas Eve service where we celebrated the international nature of our congregation with Scripture reading and hymns, food and games from the dozens of countries congregation members called home. One year when our children visited we had a family choir and sang the German carol Lo How A Rose E’re Blooming.

yk and pillowGift giving and receiving was part of a Hong Kong Christmas too. One of my students gave me a pillow for Christmas because he thought the chairs in my office were too hard. A very thoughtful gift. chinese christmas ornament

Since moving back to Canada we have decorated our tree each year with Chinese ornaments we collected in Hong Kong.dave, tad , daniel at xmas party

The decorations remind us of the many good holiday times we had in Hong Kong. 

If you enjoyed this post you might also like……….

Only Five Star Hotels For the Holy Family

New York Reminds Me Of Hong Kong

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Filed under Culture, Holidays, Hong Kong, Religion

Newtown on My Facebook Page

It has been interesting to see what kinds of things friends have posted on Facebook in response to the tragic shootings in Newtown. One person posted this. 

In 1996 there was a shooting at a primary school in Scotland. 16 children ages 5-6 were killed along with their teacher. The following year the UK banned the private ownership of all cartridge ammunition handguns, regardless of caliber. There have been no school shootings since. 

A friend posted……. Wondering how to pray when there is unimaginable suffering in this world?

Another wrote.  People with guns kill people. Any questions? 

One friend’s Facebook page had a discussion going with participants from four different countries, some of whom felt the tragedy was the result of the American people turning away from God, others who said stricter control of guns was the answer, some who advocated teachers in America bear arms and still others who were adamant that better care for people with mental health problems was vital. 

One Facebook friend said, “I was so grateful to be able to tuck my children into bed this evening and kiss them goodnight.”

One friend posted only one word.       ENOUGH!

Clearly this tragedy has impacted many people. Hopefully lessons will be learned. 

Other posts…….

Thinking About 9/11


Where Were You?

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Filed under Childhood, Culture, History, Reflections, Religion

Winter In Winnipeg’s Exchange District

stephen juba park winnipeg winterMy neighborhood is an enchanted place in winter. See more of its beauty on my Destination Winnipeg site in the post Winter in Winnipeg’s Exchange District.

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Filed under Canada, Nature, Winnipeg

The Slaughter of the Innocents

Massacre of the Innocents- Sagrada Familia- Barcelona- photo by MaryLou Driedger

Massacre of the Innocents- Sagrada Familia- Barcelona- photo by MaryLou Driedger

The Slaughter of the Innocents. Those are the words that came to mind when I heard about the grade one students shot at the school in Connecticut. The phrase was actually first used to describe another Christmas massacre of little children; the killing of all the baby boys in Bethlehem by King Herod. One can only imagine the horror of hearing soldiers bang at the door, seeing them barge into your home with their bloodied swords and watching helplessly as they executed your child. The writer of the Biblical book of Matthew describes the screams of anguish and unrestrained weeping of the mothers who witnessed this slaughter. They refuse to be comforted because their children are dead.

Flight into Egypt- Sagrada Familia- Barcelona- Photo by MaryLou Driedger

Flight into Egypt- Sagrada Familia- Barcelona- Photo by MaryLou Driedger

Yet we know that one child survived the Bethlehem murder spree. Jesus’ parents are warned of the danger and manage to flee on time to save their little son’s life. And what a difference that one child went on to make in the world.

In the midst of all the terrible sadness over what happened in Newtown this week it is important and helpful to remember that many children were saved, some of them because of the heroic and sacrificial efforts of their teachers. Who knows what difference some of those children will go on to make in the world?


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Filed under Childhood, History, Reflections, Religion