by Chris Read
With hockey, dance classes and the hustle that go along with this time of year, it’s easy for family time to get lost in the shuffle. Not in this household! We’re determined to find that time and to build holiday traditions. They were an important part of my childhood and I want my kids to have the same memories. These are some of the annual rituals we’re hoping to continue for years to come.
Christmas Day Walk
Every year on Christmas Day when I was growing up, we would bundle up and go for a long walk. I’m not talking around the block here, I mean a walk so long you didn’t know if you were ever going to make it home again. As we got older it became harder and harder for my dad to convince us to go, though to my recollection we always did. Now that I have kids, I understand why this tradition was so important to my father. Since it’s rare for us to hang out together with no distractions, our Christmas walk has quickly become one of my favourite things about the holiday.
Me? Still a kid on the inside? I never realized just how much until I hit the sledding hill with my son and daughter. In the days leading up to Christmas, we pile into vans with our neighbours and head to the local hill for hours of action. I’m not sure who has more fun, my kids or me, but one thing I know is they have way more stamina than I do. Check which local sledding hills are nearest your place.
Stanley’s Christmas Village
We were lucky enough to be invited to the inaugural ride through Stanley’s Christmas Village and we have been going back every year since. You take a horse-drawn wagon ride through a forest that sparkles with Christmas lights and then hop off at an elf village. There, you take a tour through elf-sized buildings. My kids’ favourite stop, The C.E.O Station, is where you can bring your letters to be mailed to Santa. Stanley’s is a bit of a drive, but this annual outing is more than worth it because the kids love it. Visit stanleysfarm.com in advance, as reservations are required.
Not all of us can be Clark Griswold, but that doesn’t stop people from trying. Last winter we researched locations of the coolest local light displays, hopped in our van and made a night of it. The displays that were set to music and had their own radio channels were the ones that truly blew me away. I have tremendous respect for the time and dedication that must go into creating these scenes and I can’t wait to see what this year has in store.
Boxing Day Hockey
Years ago, one of my favourite holiday traditions involved skates and sticks. For Boxing Day, a sheet of ice was rented at a local arena and my extended family and a few friends gathered for a game of pick-up hockey. After, we’d head to a family member’s house where non-players were already gathered for an afternoon party. Even more than presents, I looked forward to this hockey game all year long. It was a chance to play on the same team as my cousins as we attempted (unsuccessfully) to defeat our dads. As our parents got older and we started families of our own, the games stopped, but I am hoping for a Field of Dreams-type revival in the next couple of years.
Elf on the Shelf
We are all in with the Elf on the Shelf and I make no apologies for that. Ours is named Zerby by the way, and the kids love waking up in the morning and searching the house to see what Zerby has gotten into. My wife and I also love coming up with fun ways to hide him. The only downside is when we realize at 11 p.m. that neither one of us had moved him yet. For us, the Elf on the Shelf is a lot of fun and the kids really love the movie as well.
As you can see from the list, the holiday season is a busy time and it pays to have a plan. Besides the Santa parades we attend each year, I’m sure there are other activities I’m forgetting. I want to wish you all a Happy Holiday and I hope you find time to slow down and enjoy this special time with your family.