17.12.2011 - 27.12.2011
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I’m not sure what it was about the Christmas build up in Hawaii that got to me. I’ve only ever known Christmas in warm climates and all the strange traditions that entails. Maybe it was the constant TV and radio broadcasts from the mainland USA where it is cold and snowy. Or maybe I had just seen one too many inflatable plastic santas wearing jandals. Whatever it was, it didn’t get me in the Christmas spirit at all. Kayleigh even accused me of being the Grinch.
Well, I am proud to report my Hawaiian Christmas grinchy-ness is well and truly cured. Christmas here in Canada just makes so much more sense. Firstly, it’s cold – proper cold. So hats and mittens and scarves are not just strange objects featured in Christmas cards and brought out to adorn the dusty fireplace, they are essential items for venturing outdoors. Secondly, it’s dark by 5pm. So the ubiquitous twinkle lights are pretty all evening, not just for half an hour before you go to bed.
Somehow red wine and cups of soup and hot chocolate and turkey dinners and all the other trimmings just all make sense in this setting. Much more sense than in NZ. Even the yulelog channel (which features an open fire burning away 24/7 and the occasional glimpse of someone stoking it) is almost okay. At least it makes you feel much more warm and cosy than the endless hockey which is the option on every other channel.
Anyway, on to what we’ve been up to for the last week. Actually, I’ve kind of covered it already because we have spent a fair bit of our time enjoying red wine and cups of soup and hot chocolate and turkey dinners. We have been very fortunate to have a few old friends here to share the Christmas spirit with us and help us find some of the better local spots. Kinloch was our tour guide in Vancouver, among other things showing us the ‘real’ Gastown (we had only found the tourist bit on our own) and helping us to find decent coffee – not an easy task over here. In Victoria, we stayed with Brandy, who talked us into joining the lineup (not queue, what’s that?) for the Blue Fox Café… a very cold half hour wait but well worth it for the enormous, extremely tasty, and exceptionally good value eggs benny, washed down with a mug of Phillips – it had to be a good brew with a name like that! In case we hadn’t eaten enough by this stage, we were collected by Jason and Rachel, who gave us a scenic-spot filled ride north to Lake Cowichan to spend a very un-NZ Christmas with Jason’s Mum.
Let me set the scene. Jason’s Mum lives in the woods in a little cabin that is completely off-the-grid, with no electricity and not even a mailbox. The large pot-belly stove burns continuously, keeping the place toasty warm and boiling the kettle in no time. Outside there are a couple of small sheds where the firewood is stacked and a large vege garden, fenced to keep out the deer, elk, and bears which roam freely around these parts (we saw them all on our travels).
We adorned the porch with a small pine tree which Jason, Rach, Kayleigh and I went hunting for and cut out of the woods, then decorated to enhance the Christmas feel. It hardly needed it, with two (real) holly bushes growing either side of the front steps.
If you can picture that, then add us, sitting inside sipping eggnog, doing puzzles and playing 500. That’s how we spent Christmas. No contrived artificial cheer, no shopping malls or plastic santas, no cheesy TV shows. Not even the use of a fridge, everything is kept outside, it was colder out there. If not for the one battery powered lightbulb, it could have been 1911. I think they knew how to do Christmas back then. It was perfect.