The spirit of Christmas is not in the pudding

Dear Uma: 'Tis the season to be jolly" the old song insists, and here in this small, willing community set in pristine snow it is an easy command to obey as we drive or walk through the squeaking snow and the fog of wood smoke to some of the gatherings o

Dear Uma:

‘Tis the season to be jolly” the old song insists, and here in this small, willing community set in pristine snow it is an easy command to obey as we drive or walk through the squeaking snow and the fog of wood smoke to some of the gatherings of this holiday season.

Pete and I have attended a few of the many private parties, enjoying the opportunity to dress up a little: a shirt for Pete, a skirt for me, and to have a convivial few hours among folks we have come to know and like, people who have in the last couple of years become friends.

It’s hard to beat such an evening; the special attention paid to the menu, the festive drinks and the sheer joy of being in a warm place after the chilly journey.

Local offices host staff parties, as do the local businesses, keeping caterers busy for the season. Then there are community events. I tell you, it can be a dizzying social whirl, Christmas in Watson Lake.

The seniors’ club hosts a turkey bingo one month and then a Christmas feast the next, complete with gifts.

The gifts, I understand, are distributed in a bizarre ritual of trade and coercion and outright stealing that, one day, I hope to experience for myself.

Though the hope is not such that I long for senior status, it is something positive to look forward to as I am dragged, choiceless, towards 65.

Each year, the local library organizes a Christmas Fair, with some of the vendors coming from other Yukon communities to share their talents and sell their goods.

A lot of Christmas shopping gets done at the fair. It’s a chance to buy unique gifts for special people is appreciated. The home baking is extraordinary – discouraging to those of us who aspire to such heights in the world of the baking pans and the oven mitts, but to be purchased and gratefully appreciated nonetheless.

Moonlight Madness has a parade. Yes, Uma, a parade in 20 below zero weather. There is, on this night, an outdoor fire to warm up one’s nose and fingers before going to the next place of Christmas action. The local merchants stay open till 9 p.m., offering special prices and prizes, and kids can attend a free movie at the Northern Lights Centre while their parents shop.

Super A has wine and cheese for drinking and nibbling as one warms up after the walk from the little church hall where there are bake sales held by various groups, free hot chocolate and draws for prizes.

The gingerbread houses designed and built by the girls’ club were really clever; there was a whole neighbourhood of them on display, slightly crooked, heavy with decorative candies and icing.

Santa Claus visits Super A and people bring kids and dogs to have a moment with the king elf while getting their picture taken.

One of the annual events is the community Christmas dinner, hosted by the common efforts of all the local churches, and attended by what seemed to be most of the townspeople.

The meal was delicious and plentiful with something to tempt every sort of taste and appetite, and the buzz of talk in the big hall sounded comfortable and happy. Children ran about while adults sat and visited, waiting for the busy crew in the kitchen to declare it was time to eat.

Last year, I remembered, there was an exodus of well-fed people leaving before the hymn-singing began, probably to get home and settled in time for a televised hockey game.

This town may enjoy community dinners, but hockey is cherished.

This year the Christians, being good marketers always, declared there would be no dessert served until after the hymns were sung. Although a few diners still chose escape, either choosing the hockey game over pie, or simply not having a sweet tooth, most people stayed.

Unlike the previous year where sheets of printed Christmas carols were passed around, the piano was played and everyone who could or would sang, this year featured a live choir.

Local men and women took to the stage, arranging themselves with practised ease, while on the floor in front costumed, and unpractised, children were urged into their places.

The children were better than any dessert.

My view of their tableau was somewhat obstructed, but I am going to go on the assumption they represented a nativity scene. Although I could not see if there was anything in it or on it, the pile of hay in the midst of them was presided over by a sweet-faced young girl in blue.

Standing guard was a boy wearing the striped robe, which usually means the wearer is a shepherd or a wise man.

This one, if he was the latter, wore glasses and likely had little trouble locating the star that led them to the scene.

There were angels, known by their wings, though one of them carried what appeared to be a star-topped wand with glittering streamers. A good fairy?

Whatever had brought this charming little creature to the mound of hay, she was thoroughly enjoying herself, waving her wand without discrimination over her fellow thespians and the audience.

One of the other players was a more committed angel, wandless and all in white, except for her pink snow boots. This one gravely watched over the hay pile, her little face intent on doing a good job.

There were some kings, too. I think it was a crown I saw slipping over the eyes and face of one of the actors, rendering his (or her?) journey to the hay bale somewhat perilous.

There may have been more kids involved in the scene, but when the lambs appeared I ceased to watch anything but them, the little scene-stealers.

They gamboled out in front of the stage with their ears flopping and big grins on their faces. They waved to the audience as they were guided to their designated places, there to stand sometimes and to wander other times, during the entire concert.

They were accompanied by a shepherd, the real thing, with a large crook in hand. She used this crook well, hooking it gently around the lambs when they threatened to wander too far, and bringing them back to their rightful spots.

The singing was pleasant, the hymns well-chosen, and other than a few not unexpected remarks about The Truth the Only Truth, the little sermon between songs was not unduly lengthy.

As Christmas events go, I found it pretty good, largely because of the spirit (not the Holy Ghost) that brought us together to share food and simply warm ourselves with one another.

In a place where everyone knows everyone else, it is wonderful to see these times when the simple act of drawing together is a celebration. It is not only a celebration of family, community and the season, it is a recognition of one other and how important we are to each other.

Living in an isolated place, and in a climate that can kill, we are reminded by these gatherings of how we need togetherness to survive and how that needing is not a burden but a genuine comfort and joy.

Ho Ho Ho

Heather

Heather Bennett is a freelance writer who lives in Watson Lake.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A bobcat is used to help clear snow in downtown Whitehorse on Nov. 4. According to Environment Canada, the Yukon has experienced record-breaking precipitation this year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon will have “delayed spring” after heavy winter snowfall

After record levels of precipitation, cold spring will delay melt

Yukon RCMP say they’ve received three reports of youth being extorted online. (Black Press file)
Yukon youth being extorted online

Yukon RCMP say they’ve received three reports of youth being extorted on… Continue reading

Fines for contravening the fire ban start at $1,150 and could go as high as $100,000. File photo
Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. (Black Press file)
Yukon campgrounds to open early

Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. The early opening… Continue reading

A Housing First building on Fifth Avenue and Wood Street will be taken over by the Council of Yukon First Nations and John Howard Society later this month. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
CYFN, John Howard Society take over downtown Housing First residence

The organizations have pledged culturally appropriate service for its many Indigenous residents

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. Politicians return for the spring sitting of the assembly March 4. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Analysis: What to expect in spring sitting of the legislature

They’re back on March 4, but election speculation is looming large

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

A rendering of the Normandy Manor seniors housing facility. (Photo courtesy KBC Developments)
Work on seniors housing project moves forward

Funding announced for Normandy Manor

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

Most Read