Memories of Christmas past often return to me as the holidays approach. One of my earliest was in Moose Factory. We lived in a small red trailer on the island in those days with dad working at the former CFB Moosonee. Santa used to come to every home to hand out a few presents on December 24. No reindeer pulled his sled that day but instead a local hitched the sled to his skidoo. My brother Robie was a little leery of the man in red and wouldn’t let him get close.
The gifts were small but welcomed gladly by all of us kids. My special treat at Christmas time was Mandarin oranges. They were only available at that time of year back then. To this day I love them just as much as back then. As with any kid it was a special time of year that was nothing short of magical.
It wasn’t as magical for some though. I remember one family who had their presents under our tree. The father had told his children that they were too poor for Santa to come to their house. Along with one present for each of the kids was a small bag of candy. I felt a little embarrassed at the riches we had. My big present that year was a jeep for my G.I. Joe.
The family shared our Christmas meal and we all played with our gifts. That memory has always stuck with me. It was a lesson I needed that went beyond just sharing Christmas with the less fortunate. We weren’t really rich in money but the way my father and mother acted towards the family was amazing. They did not in any way look down on them, act condescending or do anything out of the ordinary. They treated them as fellow human beings who deserved dignity.
Sometimes we forget lessons like these and make people feel like we are doing them a favour. Christmas is not about being materialistic and looking at how much you got. It’s about sharing, celebrating and spreading some of that goodwill around with a cheerful disposition.
So give to the food banks. One idea I heard about recently from my mother was interesting. Instead of giving a gift to someone you put a gift in the food banks with a tag that says it’s from another person.
In Mistissini, remember that the Meechum store is matching local monetary donations up to a total of $15,000 though their Wreath of Hope campaign during the holiday season. Meechum also sells groceries to the community’s food bank at wholesale prices. That’s true Christmas spirit.
Though things may have seemed simpler in the past as you wrote your letter to Santa, look at what you really need to be happy. Make those gestures of generosity freely and you will see a better and healthier community as a result. Then the meaning of Christmas will truly be in your heart and your actions.
On a side note I would like to apologize to my mother and anyone else who didn’t make it into our 20th year anniversary edition credit box listing all our contributors since 1993. Love you all and may your holidays be everything you wish for.