Pass down a holiday tradition

Girl walking in snow

We have a holiday tradition that makes people gasp in horror. We open our presents on Christmas night. Not Christmas Eve, Christmas night.

It’s a tradition that stems back to the days when my grandparents owned a greenhouse in the 1930s in Cooksville (now Mississauga) at the corner of Highways 5 and 10, Dundas and Hurontario Streets. Christmas was one of their busiest times of the year, and they would often still be preparing floral orders and making deliveries right up until lunch time on Christmas Day. The only time they could sit down to relax and open gifts was after dinner.

It was a tradition my parents continued when we were young, and a tradition Dave and I have passed on to our children.

I love opening gifts at nighttime, with the fire crackling, the Christmas tree lights shining and a glass of Bailey’s in your hand. You don’t have to worry about jumping up and getting the turkey in the oven or baking pies and it prolongs the anticipation beyond Christmas morning. It also lets us get outside and enjoy the beauty and peace of the day.

I knew the circle was complete when on one of our nightly walks this week, Clare asked, “Mom, can we open presents Christmas night again this year? I really love it.”

My work as a parent is done.

Whatever your traditions or faith, I hope you have a joyous holiday. What’s your favourite holiday tradition? Leave a comment.

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Have a hooga holiday

feet in front of a fireI have a new favourite wood. Hooga. Hygge (which is pronounced “hooga”) is the ancient Danish tradition of creating a warm atmosphere to relax in with friends and family. The origin of the word actually comes from a Norwegian word that means “well-being”.

Picture Christmas eve. You’re in your fluffy socks and fresh onesie from Santa, sipping cocoa or Baileys, surrounded by family and soft candlelight. You have nowhere to go, no set plans. Just time to visit and relax. That’s hooga.

It’s a philosophy that we Canadians as northern people should adopt. A philosophy that embraces simplicity, comfort and time to unwind and slow down and enjoy relaxing time with family or friends.

The Danes may be on to something. Denmark is regularly voted one of the happiest countries of the world. In fact, Copenhagen is home to The Happiness Research Institute and many Danes believe that hooga is a recipe for a happier life and well-being.

The art of hygge has become so popular, Morley College in London has started teaching it as part of their Danish language course.

If you’re not convinced hygge is for you, consider this. “The most important contributor to our psychological wellbeing is the strength of our relationships, and hygge definitely tends to encourage more close and intimate time with loved ones,” according to Dr. Mark Williamson, Director of Action for Happiness at The Happiness Research Institute.

Yes, baby it’s cold outside. Let it snow. Be gay. We don’t care. We’re going to have a hooga holiday. Happy hooga holidays, everyone!

Ed. note: I am so grateful for my warm, cozy house, but my thoughts always turn to those who are less fortunate and homeless on the cold streets. Why not make a donation to a local shelter this holiday?

Wear a crown of flames

candle-of-flamesDecember. A time of darkness and quiet. And while the joyous preparations for the holiday season distracts us from the short days and long dark nights ahead, we lament the loss of light.

The season of advent has historically been linked with festivals celebrating the Winter Solstice and the return of the light. Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights celebrates by lighting a candle each day for eight days. The Christian Advent wreath traditionally had four candles, one lit each Sunday before Christmas.

In Sweden, families light a candle every Sunday during advent and celebrate St. Lucy’s Day, the day of light. One young girl from each village would be chosen to wear a wreath on her head to form a crown of flames. She would walk through the village singing Christmas carols and bringing treats and food to the villagers.

In Canada, we take arms against the darkness by hanging Christmas lights and lighting candles to cast a warm glow and light into the night.

This week’s #HappyAct is to wear a crown of flames: light a candle, build a fire in the grate. Be at peace with the stillness and quiet of the dark until we herald the Winter Solstice and the return of the light again.

christmas lights

Open a door a day

advent calendarOne of my favourite holiday traditions is counting down the days to Christmas with an advent calendar. Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. It heralds the time to deck the halls, write cards and prepare for the joyous holiday season.

I think I’ve always liked the activities leading up to Christmas more than Christmas itself. I can’t remember ever not having an advent calendar in the house to help build that excitement and anticipation.

I remember years ago backpacking through Europe with my girlfriend June after university. It was December and we were visiting her uncle Ian Kerr in Aberdeen, Scotland. Ian had an advent calendar, and for the days we visited with him, we celebrated by opening up a door a day. For years after, Ian and I exchanged Christmas cards and his message would always be the same—“time to start the advent calendar”. (Ian Kerr from Aberdeen if you’re out there and reading this blog, drop me a line).

This week’s #HappyAct is to buy an advent calendar and open a door a day from now until Christmas. Discover the magic of the season and the chocolate treat behind the door.