Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Canadian Christmas Memories by Margaret Ullrich

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas full of peace, health, joy and love.
And, of course, favourite foods.
Let's not forget television specials and Christmas music.

For those who don't know the story, the Christmas carol Silent Night was written in the nineteenth century because of a problem.      
In a small Austrian church the organ was broken and couldn't be repaired in time for the Christmas Eve Mass.  So, in a couple of hours, Joseph Mohr and Franz Gruber created a simple song that could be played on the guitar.
It was called the song from heaven.
On Christmas Eve in 1914, the German soldiers singing Silent Night brought a touch of humanity to World War l.  The British soldiers responded with another carol, The First Noel. For a few hours, peace returned, thanks to music.

The first year I was on the CKUW radio show 2000 & Counting, Older and Wiser 
I prerecorded our two holiday shows.  That year the holidays occurred on Tuesday, the day we usually broadcasted, and we wanted to be home.
I taped each person telling a story and their favorite Christmas carol recording.
The segments filled the two hours easily. 

Normally we did our shows live and, as our listeners knew, we did make mistakes.  With prerecording, we were able to edit them.  We sounded pretty good.

Maybe that's the problem with modern life.
We hear recordings and see shows that have had dozens of retakes.
Sometimes they show the bloopers.
It's pretty funny to see that even big stars make mistakes.
But, most of the time, all we only see a smoothly running show where everyone always says the right thing, the dinner is cooked to perfection and all problems are resolved with everybody hugging each other within a half an hour.

It can leave one feeling like he's been cheated or that he should try harder.

The first Christmas was a stinker.  Being in a big city with no available rooms is not fun.  Add to that Mary was about to have her first baby in a barn with just a carpenter there to help.
I don't think any Christmas has ever gone according to plan.
And maybe Christmas just isn't supposed to be perfect.

A first Christmas away from all that's familiar can be rough.
Our first married Christmas was a big change.
Paul and I are originally from New York City.  Tons of people.
I came from a huge family.  A first generation immigrant family.
My parents and their siblings couldn't get enough of each other.     
But, there we were in 1972, all alone in Surrey, British Columbia.
The two of us in a basement apartment watching Perry Como's Christmas special.
It was something from home for us.
This was in the days before Skype.  We hadn't seen our relatives for six months.    
When we watched Perry Como, it was good to know our folks were watching it, too.  For an hour, we were all together.
Then we went to bed for a long winter's nap.
The next morning we awoke to the sound of our puppy playing.
He was happily yelping and splashing in water.
No, he wasn't in a basin or a tub.
Surrey in those days was very rural.  There were open drainage ditches running along the lengths of the residential blocks.  The ditch in front of our house had gotten plugged.  The rain had soaked our lawn and was seeping through three walls of our apartment.  We were rapidly being flooded.  
We piled things onto our bed.
The folks upstairs helped us carry everything else into their apartment.
Within a half hour water covered about two feet of our first Christmas tree.
We were safe and dry upstairs, sharing a cup of coffee.
Then we heard our phone ringing. 
My folks had said they would call on Christmas Day.
If we didn't answer they phone, they would worry.
This was in the days before cell phones.
Our only phone was on the table in our apartment.
Our flooded apartment.

We braved the icy water and the risk of electrocution to answer the phone.
We wished my folks a Merry Christmas.
Keeping our teeth from chattering, we made small talk.
No mention of of our apartment suddenly becoming a wading pool.
What would've been the point of worrying them?

Living in British Columbia is just a memory.   
Perry Como's Christmas specials are just a memory.
My parents, also, are just a memory.
But thanks to memories, we can enjoy a Christmas from the past.

During the holidays people often feel a bit down.
If this is your first Christmas after a major change, be gentle with yourself.
Forget 'the rules'.
Do what will make it easier for you.
It won't be perfect.
So what?
It will be real… another Christmas memory.

Merry Christmas…  God bless us, everyone!

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