Tag Archives: Holidays

Blogger Talk: Christmas Edition

Can you share a favourite holiday memory?

Dana

Is it weird to say that I have so many horrible holiday memories? My sister was kind of a brat growing up and she would always freak out on Christmas morning over presents. All because of PRESENTS! That’s why I am so scared of gift giving. One of my positive memories is the first Christmas my boyfriend and I spent together. I honestly had no idea what to get him because I had only known him for a month and a half; so I got him a really big fuzzy brown blanket for his house. He didn’t have any blankets at all, which I thought was weird, so really it was like a gift for me too. I had NO idea what he was going to get me either, I was honestly hoping for candy. When I opened my gift, it was a really big fuzzy brown blanket! We each got each other the same thing! It was so funny; we loved our brown blankets. We still have them to this day (4 years later)– they are slightly less fuzzy but still just as warm and cuddly.

Valerie

I have so many favourite holiday memories. I literally think that every holiday season is my favourite. The older I get the more memories I make and the more friends I have to share these times with. Any moment spent with family or friends throughout the season laughing, creating memories and eating good food are my favourite.

What was your most memorable gift? Why?

Dana

I’m one of those people where gifts have little to no meaning to me; I’m a horrible gift giver myself and would rather just skip gifts all together and instead spend the money on a cheese platter to talk and hang out over. But one year my parents paid for a new set of tires for my car, and they told me that would be my only gift and not to be upset on Christmas morning when I didn’t have any presents. I told them I wouldn’t be upset; but as Christmas approached I was wondering if I would feel a little left out as my sister and parents opened up gifts. Christmas morning came around, and I felt really happy. I didn’t feel left out at all, it was awesome watching other people open their gifts! I also felt extremely thankful every time I drove my car and didn’t slip on snow or ice because of my spiffy new tires. Thanks mom and dad!

Valerie

The most memorable gift I have ever received was a toaster. When I was a kid we had an awful toaster. It didn’t matter what setting I used, my toast was always burnt. I relentlessly bugged my parents about getting a new toaster for months and they never caved. Christmas rolls around and nine year old me knows there is something fantastic in that large box with my name on it. I had no idea what was in it. I imagined it was a Barbie car or dollhouse and I could hardly wait to see what treasure was beneath the wrapping paper. To my dismay, it was a new toaster. I knew we needed one and that I had repeatedly asked for one but surely this wasn’t one of my presents. I was a dramatic child and was quite taken aback and disappointed that my imagination had lead me astray. As time went on I grew to appreciate and love the toaster, for it made perfect toast every time.

 Not in a festive mood, what are some coping strategies that have worked for you?

Dana

I am the definition of NOT festive. All my friend and coworkers are absolutely obsessed with Christmas. Then they find out I am kind of anti-Christmas. I blame my years of working in retail witnessing the worst of humanity and the constant blaring of Christmas music. I put up our tree maybe 10 days before Christmas; 2 years ago we realized we accidentally threw out our Christmas lights, so we went out to get more. IMPOSSIBLE! We went to every store that sold lights in the Niagara region, and because it was so close to Christmas, no one had lights (okay, they had the colourful lights but I only wanted white). So, I simply told my boyfriend we were not decorating for Christmas this year. He said okay. We didn’t decorate and it was awesome. Honestly the only thing I really like about Christmas is all of the food and it being more acceptable to drink Bailey’s in your coffee every day.

What is the one tradition from your childhood that you continue to do each holiday season?

Dana

My parents, sister and I always read “The Night Before Christmas” book before we go to bed on Christmas Eve. I typically don’t see my parents on Christmas Eve anymore because they live an hour away. I think they brought the book to our house on Christmas day and made my boyfriend and I read it out loud with them. We all take turns reading a page, and randomly my dad talks in a weird accent during his turn. Now I also read it out loud in a weird accent.

Valerie

I watch the original Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer every single year without fail. I remember having to look it up in the TV guide when I was a kid. My mom, dad and I would watch it together with delicious cookies and treats. I now get to do the same thing with my son and husband and it is one of my favourite parts of the holiday season.

The Holiday Aftermath

“These are but shadows of things that have been.” ~ The Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

This timeless story has been a favourite of mine for over thirty years.

Every year I revisit it and, each time, I have seen Scrooge as a miserly, miserable and embittered man who avoided Christmas and people, then was transformed by the visitations of the three spirits. Continue reading

Starting a New Holiday Tradition

There is just something magical about this time of year. For most people, holidays are
wonderful! Whether you’re a teenager still benefiting from the joys of opening presents, a young adult just starting out on your own, a young family creating new memories, or a group that has been celebrating your same favourite traditions year after year. One thing that stands important for folks around the holidays is that very thing: tradition.

When I did a bit of research on holiday
traditions, one event was missing from many lists: volunteering. And I don’t call it “helping the needy” or use that language for a reason. Not only does using phrasing like “the poor” or “the unfortunate” lump a whole population of people together – who are each unique individuals with hopes and dreams and stories – it also creates the illusion that “these people” are somehow essentially different from “us.” They’re not. Continue reading

The Many Ways of Christmas Giving

During Thanksgiving, I was talking with my friend who lives in Kelowna, BC with her boyfriend. They moved out there in April and the two of them have been living together and trying to make new friends, but both of their families are still in Ontario. She told me she bought a turkey so she and her boyfriend could make themselves a Thanksgiving dinner, but then decided that they didn’t need all that food between two people. I asked her what she was going to do with the turkey, and she said she was going to donate it one of the homeless shelters or food banks. What a great idea, I thought!
I never thought about donating a turkey before. But, that’s probably the most expensive item to buy for holiday dinners. I thought that was a great idea, and that got me thinking about what I can do to make a little bit of a difference during the holidays for others. I think I’ve hit that age where, I don’t really need anything for Christmas (of course, I want things, but I don’t need anything, and for that I feel very lucky), but definitely could be using my time or a little extra cash for people who do need it. Continue reading

Ho-Ho-Homeless For The Holidays

Spirit for the season can be near impossible to muster when every brain cell is busy wrestling with worry. Worry over where you and your children are going to rest your heads once the silver and gold of the holidays has tarnished, worry over balancing the decision of choosing appropriate housing and sacrificing your food budget or settling into below standard accommodations with fuller dinner plates, and even worry of finding a job in a city where the unemployment rate is higher than your debts and university educated citizens are fighting over minimum wage positions like most everyone else. For a person finding themselves without a permanent roof to colour their children’s imagination with visions of Rudolph tripping over a string of twinkling lights, most would rather blink into hibernation and have the entire December shenanigans nothing but a blip in their past they pray won’t be repeated the following year.
For those Grinchy folks we YWCA staffers have a solution…

Glue a Santa beard to their chins and over-sized elf ears to their heads in their sleep?

Nah, but the visual is far more entertaining to me than it probably should be!
Instead we amp up the already pumped season to remind them that just because their life is a hopscotch field from where you want it to be, this doesn’t mean Holiday cheer is a candy cane length too far from their grasp.  
Items on the list for mission “Inject Holiday Enthusiasm”: Over-decorating the house with positively anything containing mass amounts of glitter, Santa, holiday greetings, hand-crafted snowflakes more perfect than found in nature, plus a wind-up – nearly driving you out of your mind – carol-singing snow globe – CHECK. Crafting beautiful hand-made Christmas cards for family and friends – CHECK. Erecting a tree dripping in lights, colorful ornaments and candy canes pilfered before the following day – CHECK. Chowing down on a button-popping, calorie boosting, holiday inspired feast – CHECK. Not to mention, along with all the holiday overload, was a visit from the big guy in red, Santa himself, taking a break from his yearly preparations to sit and read to the kids before tackling the all-important wish list.
Much better than waiting in line at a stuffy, packed elbow to elbow mall, and can still plaster a smile on the face of any child hoping they skirted the “Naughty” list.
Being in the shelter, on the naughty list or not, by no means denotes a free ride no matter the time of year. Ask any guest who has crossed our doors and they will have no qualms about telling you that taking that step across the threshold in a reach for help was one of the hardest decisions they ever made. For us lucky staff, the holidays gives us a chance to remind these strength-building ladies that making that leap doesn’t stamp them as a cast-off until they re-establish a foothold back into the society the feel they stepped out of. 
Alternatively, being within the shelter is a time to pause, reflect, establish a simple and manageable plan, and have the breathing room to enact said plan with a measure of dignity. Doing this while everyone is sticking season’s greetings into every call while telling you the rental you really wanted has already been rented, is tantamount to a helpful hand across an icy road before they push you face first into a snow drift, and for many, it occurs again and again. Something hard to watch when you spend your shifts trying to keep up everyone’s drowning moods and erase negative thoughts of letting down family.
Just because you’re homeless, most assume this means you have zero family or loved ones you hoped to buy the perfect gift that tells them you pay attention to their wants and needs, and took your time in landing on a decision you wrap and anticipate them unveiling. Far from reality. Most times that family doesn’t have the means or accommodations to set another up, but they still gather for a yarn around the tree, setting up a homeless person for the embarrassing moment when presents are being circulated by everyone else but you. Unfortunately, the “perfect gift” tends to come tethered to a less-than-perfect price tag you’d swear the cash register crafted out of spite. When you have rent and moving expenses to consider, settling for something smaller or homemade is the sensible choice.
As a kid your dread grew resentful, crossed arms when you found the sweater-sized wrapped box beneath the tree. As an adult that feeling only duplicates depending on the gift-giver. In shelter, we like to have those boxes contain something useful yet still wanted. A plush house coat with matching slippers, cozy PJ’s for cold nights, winter gear to hug old man winter without the frostbite…anything a woman or child would open and gasp in delight instead of disguised disgust is what we strive to gift when possible.
Accessing community resources gets you necessities; A few warm items on your back, hygiene products to look your best, and some food to fill your tummy. Most times room for anything else is not sought after when those necessities are no longer a worry, but the YWCA isn’t all about providing strictly needs. We are about making women and their families their best and empowering them to face the world with open eyes and bolstered confidence in the success their hard work will lead them to.
To do this, a person needs to feel worthy of receiving that special something. Contrary to belief, it doesn’t take a lot to accomplish. A sparkly pair of earrings, a fashionable scarf, a book they were waiting to delve into, anything to fortify their spirits and inspire motivation. Add a gift that spreads a wide-toothed grin on their kids face and you have a person ready to scrape away the outer shell weighing them down to expose the women equipped to lift a confident chin, and obtain the next steps needed to regain a self-sufficient existence.
Times of the year like this tend to remind people of loved ones, especially those they lost who will miss out on the celebration. Some don’t possess the “This one year…” stories to recite over hot cocoa and a smile to regale the crowd with, having never possessed the childhood to foster such laughter-evoking tales. In the business of recreation, we do our utmost to reset that notion, focus on moving forward, and color a new tradition filled with a drive to multiply joy.
Whatever the guest celebrates during the holidays, no matter the Bahumbug in their bonnets, we endeavor to wedge a glitter-dripping fissure into a time when some would think taking a breath to celebrate would be counterproductive, when really it’s the fuel to keep going.
Happy Holidays from everyone at the YWCA, including our shelter guests, ones swimming in the deep-end filled to their Santa hats with tinsel, and even more so from the ones needing a little more convincing that the season is what you make of it and not dependent on the roof over your head.