This past spring, I had the amazing privilege of living in Aix-en-Provence, France for two months with my daughter. Aix will forever be an incredibly special place to me and it is a one that I hope to return to many times in my life.
As I take time to slow down over the holiday season, I discovered this lovely series of photos taken by a traveller; and it took me on a virtual journey back to my beloved Provence. It warmed my heart so I thought I would share it with you.
This past weekend, my daughter and I travelled to Vancouver for our annual holiday trip. It is a tradition for us to go to Grouse Mountain for their Peak of Christmas celebration. My sister and I have been taking our kids every year, since they were little. It is a beautiful, snowy wonderland at the top of the mountain. Santa is there to visit in his workshop, along with his reindeer. There is a lovely light path through the forest, which is magical to walk after dusk. Festive holiday movies play in the theatre all day and the restaurant serves a great lunch.
To top the day off, you get to ride the gondola back down to the base: enjoying a breathtaking view across Vancouver and the Burrard Inlet as you make the descent. I cherish the opportunity to make these special memories with the ones I love. They are much more valuable than any present left under a tree. #JoyBlogging
The holiday season is upon us. From the end of October onward, the stores
are packed with merchandise, and we are bombarded with the message to buy more,
more, more. Expressing love has become synonymous with gift giving.
A few years ago, I stopped to think about how I wanted to intentionally cultivate my own family traditions; and I spent some time reflecting on some important questions. What values do I want share with my child at this time of year? How can we meaningfully experience this season together? How can we give back to our community?
For me, quality time is very important. I want to fill my child with love and lasting memories. This is a gift that she can carry with her forever and it does not end up in the landfill. I also want her to learn the value of community and the importance giving over receiving.
To try to achieve these goals, we have established some traditions that we look forward to sharing.
Santa’s Anonymous: There are so many families who need help during the holiday season. If you visit a local mall, such as Hillside or Mayfair, between November 25 – December 6, 2019 you will find a Tree of Wishes. Low income children from across the CRD have requested a special gift to make their holiday season bright. Food hampers are also provided to their families.
Donations instead of gifts: Instead of giving large gifts to the adults in our family, I make donations in their honour to charities close to my heart; and I ask them to do the same for me. I also like to choose special books for each person, purchased from independent booksellers, like Munros, Bolen Books or Ivy’s Books. This not only supports authors and publishers but also local businesses.
Volunteering: There are many local not-for-profits looking for help at this time of year. In our family, we volunteer with a local chocolate maker. She raises money for Connections Place, a supportive drop-in centre for people facing mental health issues, through her annual fundraiser. My daughter and I help with the packaging and assembly. I also order her delicious chocolate for stocking stuffers.
Baking: It is really fun to spend time together in the kitchen. There are so many delicious treats that you can bake at this time of year. We enjoy shortbread and sugar cookies. Decorating them together is the best part! You can gift your goodies to friends and family.
Host a Gingerbread Party: Invite a few of your child’s friends over to the house and decorate gingerbread houses. If you do not want to make them yourself, there are simple prepackaged options available at the grocery store.
Trim the Tree: We love to pick our tree together and spending an afternoon decorating it, while enjoying festive music and hot chocolate. My daughter loves putting the star on top at the end.
Community Events: There are so many great events taking place across the city and many of them are low cost or free. Here are a few events coming up this year:
Christmas Lights Across Canada: Celebrate the lighting of the provincial Christmas tree and the Parliament Buildings. Enjoy festive performances, music and seasonal treats. December 5, 2019.
Gingerbread Showcase: The Parkside Hotel & Spa hosts an annual Gingerbread Showcase in support of Habitat for Humanity. It is free to visit and you can enjoy exploring a wide range of creative and festive entries, in support of a good cause. You can vote for your favourite one. It runs November 16, 2019 – January 5, 2020.
Light Village: The Downtown Victoria Business Association is hosting a light maze in Centennial Square this holiday season. It will run from December 13, 2019 until the end of the month.
Christmas Movie Nights: Oak Bay Beach Hotel is hosting screenings throughout December. Holiday films are accompanied by light dinner, popcorn and house-made sweet-treats. Partial proceeds of all sales go to the David Foster Foundation. Films include: Love Actually; Elf; Home Alone; and the Polar Express.
Christmas at Butchart Gardens: Colourful lights and festivities are on offer at the world-famous gardens. It is hosted from December 1, 2019 – January 6, 2020. I like to take my daughter in the days following Christmas, as it is quieter, and it is nice to have something seasonal and bright to look forward to after all of the holiday fanfare is over.
The Peak of Christmas: Every year, we make a special trip to Vancouver to visit Santa at Grouse Mountain. It is a lot of fun to take the gondola up to the top. Grouse does an amazing job create a winter wonderland, with ice skating, a light maze, live reindeer, crafts, movies. Santa Claus has his own cottage in the snow. It is at truly magical experience.
Learn and Grow: There are so many wonderful celebrations taking place throughout December in addition to Christmas. In our family, we enjoy learning about how this season is celebrated by cultures across the world. A few of them include: Hanukkah; Winter Solstice; St. Lucia Day; Kwanzaa; and Ōmisoka. You can do this by taking books out from the library, researching information online, and/or speaking with friends in your community who celebrate these special holidays.
Every year we add new traditions to our list. It is fun to try out new things, spend quality time together, and explore this beautiful season in our own special way. It is the greatest gift we can give to one another.
I love fall; the hues of red, orange and yellow leaves: the crisp air and re-emergence of warm jackets and woolen hats. I enjoy the playfulness of Halloween and the quick ball change into holiday sparkle: colourful lights illuminating dark neighborhoods and parkways.
I look forward to the month of December: making cookies and crafts; festive gatherings; meals shared with friends and family; the winter fair at school; decorating the tree; and singing carols. I deeply value the opportunity to spend quality time with the people I love and with my community: making memories together. For me, it is a season to foster connection and friendship, and to express gratitude.
To keep closer to this intention, I made the decision to move away from gift giving for the adults in my life a few years ago. I now choose two causes close to my heart and I donate the money that I would normally spend on gifts, in their names. I ask them to do the same for me. This year I chose the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and the Environmental Working Group.
For the kids in my family, I like to buy hand-made gifts created close to home. We are really lucky to have some fantastic local fairs that run at this time of year in Victoria. One of my favourites is the Owl Fair. It is a carefully curated gathering of Etsy artisans who make beautiful and unique things. When I pick up each piece, I can feel the love and care that has gone into its making. I had a great time exploring the tables today; and I came away with a bag full of treasures for all of the little ones in my life. Each gift makes me smile and I am excited to give them.
Another highlight for me at this time of year is the celebration the Winter Solstice. This is the shortest day and longest night of the year. It also officially marks the beginning of winter. I like to spend some time reflecting on the year that has passed and the seeds of intention that I would like to plant for the year ahead. It helps to create clarity and focus; and I like the idea of acknowledging the changing of the seasons with this small tradition.
What are your traditions at this time of year? How do you like to make memories with those you love?