Category Archives: Holidays

Sunrise on a New Year

Our six-year-old grandson painted this sunrise picture and gave it to us as a Christmas gift. I just LOVE it!

See how the light rises above the dark waters?

See how the sun is swirling with possibilities?

See how the sun’s rays spread out to warm the world?

May your 2023 be filled with light and hope.

May it present you with new opportunities and possibilities to explore.

May it be warmed by meaningful relationships.

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Health Care Heroes

In his Christmas message to Canadians Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid special tribute to the healthcare professionals who continue to do their vital work during the holiday season when many others have time off from their jobs.

The importance of the prime minister recognizing those who work in health care had personal significance for me as I thought about my visits to my father in his nursing home during the Christmas season.

Dad conducting along while the staff as his nursing home sing carols for the residents

At the Christmas party on his ward, I watched as the staff sang carols for the residents, danced with them, hugged them and served them and their family members food.

Dad receiving his blessing from St. Nicholas

One took the role of St. Nicholas and gave a special blessing to each resident. Volunteer instrumentalists serenaded us, while the kitchen staff provided a beautiful array of party food.

Photo of Dad and me at the Christmas party on his ward

The social workers and recreation coordinators went around taking photos of all the residents with their family members who had come to the party.

Dad with three of his children last week

I had arranged to bring Dad to my place last Sunday for a small Christmas gathering of his Winnipeg children. The nursing home staff had made sure Dad was all ready for his outing, had been shaved and bathed, was dressed nicely, had taken his medications, and had his outdoor clothing on hand.

On Christmas Day and Christmas Eve when I visited Dad some of the staff had dressed in Christmas sweaters, and others wore Santa hats. The menu included a full turkey dinner with all the trimmings and the ward was decorated with a tree and wreaths and lights.

The ward was fully staffed on both Christmas Day and Christmas Eve and I realized all the people there had forfeited being with their own families to care for the family members of other people including my Dad.

Visiting Dad on Christmas Day

My Dad is in a ward for people with advanced dementia and the work is often challenging and difficult. But the staff are almost unfailingly kind and understanding and always welcoming to us as a family.

They definitely deserve special recognition not only at Christmas but all year round. They are certainly heroes in my eyes.

Other posts……….

Wraggling Along

Our Dad is Dancing

Dad’s Fern

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A Painting for the Globe and Mail

The Toronto Globe and Mail has a tradition of choosing a Canadian work of art to feature every Christmas Eve. This year it was The Bird Shop, St. Lawrence Street, by Maurice Cullen painted in 1920. Although this painting is set in Montreal the artist was born in St. John’s Newfoundland.

It started me thinking about which painting by a Canadian artist I might nominate for next year’s Christmas Eve feature in the Globe and Mail.

Here are five of my nominees.

Early Snow by Tom Thompson -1916-1917 in the collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery

We think of snow as white. But if you look closely it is a prism of colour. Thompson captures that so beautifully here.

Friends Rejoicing by Daphne Odjig in the collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery

At Christmas, we celebrate the joy of the birth of a baby. I think this painting captures that beautifully.

Doc Snyder’s House by Lionel LeMoine FitzGerald- 1931
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

Painted by the only Manitoba member of the Group of Seven this is such a typical Winnipeg winter scene. It makes me feel at home.

Four Generations by Pitaloosie Saliin the collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery

Christmas is a time when there are multi-generational gatherings of families. This depiction of four generations of women by Inuit artist Pitaloosie Sali is one of my favourite pieces in the Winnipeg Art Gallery collection.

Pound Cove Mummers Crossing Coal Harbour Pond by David Blackwood 1985

I love the fact that in different parts of Canada Christmas is marked with different traditions. Here David Blackwood magically captures the tradition of mummering in Newfoundland.

I don’t know if the Toronto Globe and Mail accepts nominations for their Christmas Eve art feature. I’ll have to check it out and see if they would consider one of my suggestions for next year.

Other posts…………

Mummering With A Great Canadian Artist

Good-bye Pitaloosie

Getting to Know L L

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Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!

Seasons Greetings to all my blog readers.

I appreciate each and every one of you.

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Christmas Memories

I’ve been inspired by a Holly Harris piece in the Winnipeg Free Press where she interviews musicians about Christmas. One question she asked them was “What is a special Christmas memory you have?”

Singer Steve Bell said it was going to visit the inmates at the prison where his Dad was a chaplain on Christmas Day.

Naomi Woo assistant director of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra got married at Christmas.

Cheryl Pauls, a pianist and President of Canadian Mennonite University, remembers a family trip from Ontario to Winnipeg on very icy roads.

Here are some of my memories.

Singing with my cousins at my grandparents’ farmhouse in the little village of Gnadenthal in southern Manitoba in 1958. We performed for our grandparents every year and after we’d done that we got our presents.

Eating pretzels and drinking beer in Bamburg Germany on Christmas Day in 2010.

One of my childhood memories is always getting a brand new dress for Christmas. Here I am in 1963 with my siblings in our new Christmas outfits.

Exploring the Wai Ta Poi thermal fields in New Zealand the Christmas of 2008.

Our youngest son was born just before Christmas in 1985. We had waited for him for a long time.

The pure delight my mother took in being with her family at Christmas. Look at how happy she is in this photo even though she’s probably been working non-stop for weeks to prepare all the food, buy all the gifts and decorate her home.

Visiting the Sydney Opera House in Australia the Christmas of 2009

Selling out all the copies of my book Lost on the Prairie in the Mennonite Heritage Museum gift shop at their Christmas market in 2021.

My Mom with my grandson, her first great grandchild, on the last Christmas before she passed away.

Frosty Christmas walk last year when the pandemic prevented us from getting together with our family.

Other posts………

What’s Microchimerism and What Does It Have To Do With Christmas?

Writing Christmas Memories

Christmas Presents 1971

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Christmas Music That Saved Our Lives

A question Winnipeg Free Press writer Holly Harris asked musicians from our city in her article about the holidays was what music was special to them during the festive season.

Winnipeg music performer Steve Bell said the Christmas song that was the most meaningful to him was In the Bleak Midwinter based on a poem by Christina Rosetti and set to music by Gustav Holst. 

Élise Lavallée the principal violist, for the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra said one of her favourites was River written by Joni Mitchell and sung by Sarah McLachlan.

The Christmas song Lo How a Rose is one our family sings every Christmas. Some of you might know the story of how that hymn saved our family’s life. We were living in Hong Kong in 2004 and our children had come to visit us. We had a hotel in Phuket Thailand booked for a family holiday. We were going to fly out on Christmas Eve and had a snorkelling trip arranged for the 26th.

Our family singing Lo How A Rose in our church in Hong Kong

Then John Lemond the pastor of Tao Fong Shan, our church in Hong Kong asked if our family might sing at the Christmas Eve service. We had been to this service before and knew it was a special evening with attendees from fifteen or more countries sharing their Christmas traditions. We thought our children would enjoy it. So we changed our trip plans and left on Christmas Day. We rebooked our snorkelling excursion for the 27th.

Our family singing Lo How A Rose in 2000

We sang the hymn Lo How A Rose at that church service. We had sung it before as a family.

Our family on the waterfront after the tsunami

The tsunami hit on the 26th and we would have been snorkelling out on the ocean right then had we not changed our plans. Luckily our hotel was high on a hill and wasn’t impacted. Of course we never went snorkelling. Thanks to Lo How A Rose we were safe.

Our son and grandson warming up for family Christmas singing

Yesterday I wrote about our family’s tradition of Christmas stockings. Before we open them we sing three or four Christmas carols. One is always Lo How a Rose.

Other posts……..

Christmas Carol Inspiration

In A Child’s Voice

Solstice Carol

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Favourite Christmas Tradition

Winnipeg Free Press music critic Holly Harris has an interesting article in today’s paper. She interviewed musicians asking them questions about the holidays. I thought it would be fun to answer some of Holly’s questions myself. Today I’ll look at ………. What’s your favourite Christmas tradition?

In the Free Press article Naomi Woo assistant conductor of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra said her favourite tradition is having fruit salad for breakfast on Christmas morning like her Mom’s family did in Uganda.

Cellist David Liam Roberts said his is eating a German Christmas bread called stollen with his family and reading an excerpt from Tolkien’s Father Christmas Letters.

Hanging stockings on our fireplace with my siblings

My favourite tradition would have to be stockings. When I was a child my siblings and I always hung up stockings which were filled with gifts on Christmas morning.

Stocking my Mom made for our oldest son

My mother made Christmas stockings for each of her grandchildren when they were born.

Christmas stocking for my oldest grandchild

I’ve carried on that tradition making stockings for each of my grandchildren.

Working on my grandson’s stocking

I am definitely not a ‘crafty’ person so I’ve been fortunate that my friend Debbie who is a very talented and artistic craftswoman has helped me make the stockings for my grandchildren.

Stocking for my youngest grandchild

During our family Christmas celebrations now I bring out the stockings with gifts tucked inside. Just before everyone ‘opens’ their stocking we go around the family circle and each person shares a highlight of the year just past and a hope for the year to come.

Pandemic Stockings

During the pandemic when we couldn’t meet in person I had to mail wrapped gifts to my grandchildren and children with a picture of their stocking taped onto them.

This year I will be able to give them their stockings in person again. I already have them all hanging up in our condo.

Stockings are my favourite Christmas tradition. What’s yours?

Other posts……….

They Never Made It to the Manger

Ten Christmas Presents

Christmas Down Under

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What Four Things Does A Manitoba Writer Need To Survive Winter?

Last week I hosted a Christmas party for my writers’ group at our home. I have been meeting with a group of Winnipeg writers for children and teens twice a month for many years now. They have been a wonderful source of encouragement and advice and valuable criticism on my writing journey.

We have continued to meet throughout the pandemic primarily via Zoom but it was nice to be together in person for a social event. Everyone contributed delicious food and we enjoyed a terrific meal.

We had a gift exchange and I received this lovely creative package from my friend Larry.

The card inside the gift said it contained the four things Manitoba writers needed to survive winter.

1. Warmth- represented by the pair of reindeer socks.

2. Sustenance- represented by a bag of chocolates

3. Inspiration- represented by the book The Writer’s Life by writing expert Julia Cameron

4. Words- represented by two empty lined notebooks

I thought the gift was very appropriate because I have received all those same things from the writers in our group.

The warmth of their friendship.

Their advice and guidance that has provided sustenance on my writing journey.

Their wonderful writing and publication success which has been an ongoing source of inspiration for me.

The words of encouragement they gave me to keep on trying till I too became a published author.

Not just Manitoba writers but all writers need warmth, sustenance, inspiration and words to survive.

Other posts………..

Love Letter to McNally Robinson Booksellers

We Never Stop Talking

Talk About Being in Good Company

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They Never Made It to the Manger- Elmdale School 1994

I found a program in one of my journals for Steinbach’s Elmdale School Christmas concert in 1994, nearly thirty years ago. That year the school presented a drama called They Never Made It to the Manger. It was a play written by my husband Dave who was teaching grade five at Elmdale School at the time.

The entire school was involved in the performance and each child manipulated a hand held puppet they had created. My husband’s version of the Magi story included a fourth wise man named Henry and a wise woman named Gertrude who didn’t make it to Bethlehem. I noted in my journal there were gigantic camel puppets for the Magi to ride. 

My husband was a member of the Elmdale School staff in Steinbach for almost a decade beginning in 1990. Craig Cassils the music teacher who coordinated the Christmas musical Dave wrote in 1994 is to the far left in the middle row. My husband Dave is to the far right in the back row.

The show’s music was arranged and conducted by music teacher Craig Cassils. The Elmdale student performers staged a lively party in King Herod’s palace with the puppets dancing and singing Twist and Shout by the Beatles. My husband played the harmonica for one of the songs in the show- Elton John’s Can You Feel the Love Tonight.

My son’s grade four school class that performed with the angel puppets in the musical They Never Made It To the Manger

Proud mama that I was, I wrote in my journal that our younger son who was a grade four student at Elmdale that year, used a Marlon Brando voice in his role of King Herod’s advisor Zeke. He also accompanied a song on an Orff instrument, maneuvered one of the angel puppets and sang a duet at the end of the concert.

This all happened nearly three decades ago but I can still remember sitting in the audience and marvelling at the talent and creativity of both my husband and my son and the enormous amount of work done by the Elmdale School staff to create such a memorable Christmas experience for both the children and the audience. 

Other posts………

Three Wise Women

A Year in My Teaching Life- 1982-1983

Giving Young Writers an Audience

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The Christmas Books

Yesterday on the first Sunday of advent each of our grandchildren got a Christmas book and a pair of Christmas socks from their grandfather and me.

Every November I enjoy looking at children’s books for the holiday season old and new and picking just the right one for each grandchild.

A huge thank you to my online middle grade author community who brought The Vanderbeekers by Karina Yan Glaser to my attention. It was the book I chose for my ten-year-old grandson. A lively family with five children finds out just before Christmas they are about to be evicted from their brownstone apartment in Harlem. The kids begin a campaign to convince their grouchy landlord Mr. Beiderman to change his mind. They get pretty creative!

Dasher a New York Times bestseller by Matt Tavares was my choice for my six-year-old grandson. Dasher is a young doe whose family works and travels under the hot sun with the circus. Dasher’s mother tells her daughter stories about her own very different childhood. She lived where the ground was covered with snow and her family could see the glow of the North Star. Dasher runs away and follows the North Star. When she meets Santa a whole new life begins for her.

For my three-year-old granddaughter I chose Happy All-Days by Cindy Jin which introduces readers to all the different winter holidays that different families from different backgrounds and cultures celebrate including Christmas and Chanukah and Kwanzaa.

I thought I knew all of Robert Munsch’s books but I had never read Finding Christmas which is told in his usual engaging style with a funny twist at the end. The book is illustrated by Munsch’s long time collaborator Michael Martchenko.

For my youngest grandchild who just turned two I picked The Christmas Baby by Marion Dane Bauer. It tells the traditional nativity story but relates the birth of Jesus to the birth of every child.

Perhaps my favourite pick this Christmas is I’m Going to Give You a Polar Bear Hug written by Caroline Cooney and illustrated by Tim Warnes. With lovely lilting rhyming text it tells the story of a child who gets hugs from all kinds of winter animals- a reindeer, a polar bear, a fox, an arctic hare, a penguin and a seal.

My other grandchildren live in Saskatchewan but the youngest is here in Winnipeg so I got to read I’m Going to Give You a Polar Bear Hug to her yesterday and she smiled and named the animals along with me and asked to read it again when we were done. Clearly a winner!

Other posts………….

Christmas Books- 2019

Advent Books- 2020

Christmas Classics for Kids

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