Special Feature - Christmas Memories: What They, and the Holidays, Mean at Heart

“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” – Dr. Seuss

We all have a deep cave’s worth of memories that immediately spring to mind when the topic of Christmas comes up in conversation.  Your memories are different from mine, and mine from yours, but they’re all similar in the sense that we keep them close to our hearts.  Maybe they’re happy memories, maybe there’s some sadness involved, and maybe they even started out as a bad memory that turned out to involve some goodness in the end.

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They can be a mixed bag, but they all own real estate in our hearts, minds and subconscious, and many of us take a moment or two during the holiday season to reflect on them.

I wanted to know what a few people had in their own collective hearts when it came to Christmas, so I came up with a handful of questions and sought a few subjects from various communities in the region; a ‘Christmas Questionnaire’, if you will.  Their responses range from short and sweet, which can be refreshing sometimes and it tells me their memories are always at the ready to be mentioned, to longer and reflective, which always tells me that someone has a lot to say on any given subject.

My thanks to those who agreed to take part, and perhaps you, dear reader, will be inspired by their thoughts and take the time to reflect on your own Christmas memories in your own unique way!

Let’s begin, shall we…?

Special Feature - Christmas Memories: What They, and the Holidays, Mean at Heart_3

Nicole Ponto – 25
Outlook, SK

What is your greatest Christmas memory?  Why does it stick with you?

“My greatest Christmas memory is probably spending time with my closest 2 cousins. We would make gingerbread houses every year (a tradition we've carried on with our own kids now too), play board games and card games. My aunt always has a crazy Christmas game to play. It used to be a small present wrapped in many layers of boxes and tape and wrapping paper and everyone took turns rolling a dice to get a 1 or 6 so you could put on oven mitts and try to open the present. It was usually a lot of yelling and laughing but it was always the best part of the day!”

What do you love most about the holidays?  Why?

“I love the holidays because you get to spend a lot of quality time with family and there’s so much happiness and hope in everyone. People in stores and on the street are so cheerful and excited, it makes the community feel very close.”

Can you recall the greatest Christmas gift you ever received?  What made it so special?

“The greatest Christmas gift I ever received; oh boy, that's a tough one, but the first thing that comes to mind is getting engaged. The ring was in my stocking and initially I wasn’t sure if it was actually an engagement ring or just a pretty ring because he just sat in the corner chair and stared at me, haha!”

How are you spending this coming holiday season?

“This holiday season will be a little different for me because my husband recently left, so instead of spending the whole holidays with my kids and families, it will mostly be divided between us. The five of us will still spend Christmas morning together to open gifts with the kids, but after we will take the kids separately to our families’ celebrations which usually consist of supper, goofy games, and Secret Santa or Chinese gift exchanges. It will also be my daughter’s first Christmas, so it will be fun to see her reactions to the colors, lights, and excitement.”

Describe what Christmas means to you.

“To me, Christmas means quality time spent with family. Whether it’s playing card games, colouring with the kids, or having a game of hockey on the driveway, it's about making great memories with the people that are closest to you and cherishing the time spent together.”

Special Feature - Christmas Memories: What They, and the Holidays, Mean at Heart_1

Ardell Ylioja – 38
Kenaston, SK

What is your greatest Christmas memory?  Why does it stick with you?

“Getting together with all of my family at my grandpa and grandma’s house in Minnesota.  I just remember it being so much fun.”

What do you love most about the holidays?  Why?

“I think I love the atmosphere of it, as it’s a time to remember family.”

Can you recall the greatest Christmas gift you ever received?  What made it so special?

“An electric race car track, and I remember playing with Dad on it.”

How are you spending this coming holiday season?

“I will be getting together with my mom and my sisters.”

Describe what Christmas means to you.

“Christmas means family.”

Special Feature - Christmas Memories: What They, and the Holidays, Mean at Heart_2

Janet Hundeby – 63
Elbow, SK

What is your greatest Christmas memory?  Why does it stick with you?

“My greatest Christmas memory is spending Christmas with 25 family, mostly cousins around our table.  I had to write names on each napkin to be sure we had a spot for everyone.  There would be 7 adults, including Grandma and the rest of the crowd was kids all under the age of 15. My mom served the best turkey dinner with all the trimmings, as well as Christmas pudding covered with her brown sugar sauce. I can smell and taste it all now. This was 50 years ago and back then there was no one else bringing food to help out like we do now. Us kids played games wherever there was enough space to set things up, whether it was board games, cards with the adults or forever bouncing down the stairs from the second floor.  Every so often, Dad would come to the bottom of the stairs and tell us to stop, and we would for a few minutes and then right back at it. One Christmas, it stormed and everyone stayed over, even the bath tub was sleeping space. Great times and great memories.”

What do you love most about the holidays?  Why?

“I love the coziness of our home when all the decorations are up and the fireplace is burning. Soft Christmas music playing and visiting with family and friends.  Our lives are far too busy, and it just seems Christmas helps us slow down a bit and appreciate the people we care about. It is always a time of reflection over Christmases past, those loved ones now gone, and making new memories with our own grandkids and extended family.”

Can you recall the greatest Christmas gift you ever received?  What made it so special?

“The greatest gift I ever received was my engagement ring. We had dated for 4 years and I was working on completing nurses training. Seems we had waited forever but the night finally came, actually just a bit ahead of Christmas, but I have no idea what else I received that Christmas.  Why was it so special?  Well, that was 42 Christmases ago and we are still celebrating!”

How are you spending this coming holiday season?

“Well, considering we haven't yet completed harvest and a lot of the grain is needing drying, we would welcome the opportunity to finish combining and every day is a possibility, unless we get a lot of snow.  My hubby has been working harvest hours every day, so just having a couple of days of rest would be great. We will have the kids and grandchildren home for a couple of days, then back to work. I work a 12-hour night shift the 20th to the 22nd, so sleep part of the 23rd and then get Christmas dinner ready and have 12-15 people around our table.  We will invite neighbors who will be alone for the holiday as well, then back to 12-hour day shift the 26th and 27th. Hubby will be turning and checking grain.  This isn't a usual Christmas at all.”

Describe what Christmas means to you.

“Christmas means celebrating the birth of my heavenly Father in Jesus Christ and sharing that celebration with food and sharing with family and friends. Just to celebrate the greatest gift ever given for each if us and spread a little love and warmth to others. We have been so blessed in this country and others even in our own community haven't been able to enjoy as much as we have. Our home is always open, welcoming others in for a visit and often a meal.”

Special Feature - Christmas Memories: What They, and the Holidays, Mean at Heart_0

Alice Porter – 89
Conquest, SK

What is your greatest Christmas memory?  Why does it stick with you?

“Well, my mom and dad celebrated Christmas Eve every year, and I still do.  Christmas for me is actually Christmas Eve.  We still do that now; my kids do that and I do.  We found it works the best because now the girls can go over to their husband’s family’s home for Christmas Day.  We always celebrate on Christmas Eve, and that’s the way it’s been for a long time.  Christmas Day is for enjoying everything else.”

What do you love most about the holidays?  Why?

“I guess it’s getting all the kids home for Christmas on Christmas Eve, and generally, I get to spend Christmas Day with maybe one of their families.  After we’ve celebrated on Christmas Eve, if I’m not invited out on Christmas Day, I love to get into a good book or maybe get into one of my presents.”

Can you recall the greatest Christmas gift you ever received?  What made it so special?

“Well, I got my ring on Christmas Day and we were engaged on Christmas Day!  I knew I was getting it, but that’s when I actually got to wear it!  That was in 1954, and we were married in the following year.  That was the most special to me.”

How are you spending this coming holiday season?

“Well, we’re all going to meet with Carol this year, and she lives in Rosetown.  The girls have been taking turns, and they think my house isn’t big enough for everybody now, haha.  I’d love to have them come back here, but they say it isn’t big enough, so there you go.  Our family has increased a little bit with two new great-granddaughters this year, but to me, I’d still love to host them all here some year!”

Describe what Christmas means to you.

“Christmas means getting to visit with all my relatives and have people come visit me.  It’s a fun time, and it means having friends and neighbors in.  We enjoy the treats and all the decorations that go up.  We do a lot of special baking in our family, and we’re Norwegian, so of course we have to have our lefse!  Growing up, we always had pork ribs for Christmas Eve, and we always had supper, then got everything cleaned up, and then our celebration was right after supper.  Kids got to go around the Christmas tree, which was an old bush that we decorated, and that’s what we enjoyed.  On Christmas Day, we enjoyed it like it was a special Sunday.”

Four different people, four different perspectives on memories and meaning.

Going forward, everyone reading this is surely anticipating the holidays; a time dedicated to creating new memories that will perhaps create new meaning within all of us when we ponder what this time of the year means to us.

This season, I hope everyone takes Dr. Seuss’s quote into consideration.  Enjoy the moments, understand their value, and cherish them as future memories.

© The Outlook

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