I am a Christmas person. I love the lights, I love the spirit of the holiday. I love visiting all my aunts and uncles and friends and having all the fancy Christmas cookies and dainties. For me, Christmas is about family and our traditions, about the laughter and love that comes from everyone coming together. I’m not so much bent on the religious aspects of the holiday, but I have no problem claiming the kinship part of it all.
When we were younger, we would spend Boxing Day at the Farm, by St. Louis, SK. My mom’s side of the family is small, so we would all cram inside Grandma’s house, play on frozen hay bales, go for sleigh rides, and eat the Christmas oranges she would try to hide from us. We were allowed one a day. We generally went through a box a day, ha. She would hide the box of oranges under her bed…. every year. And every year we found them. I remember meat pies and ketchup, and sweet little Eggo’s called la goufettes and
But in Beauval, we would go to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. And coming from the North, we are talking about a -35 kind of Christmas Eve. Like fancy dresses then skidoo pants over the fancy dresses kind of cold. And it was legit at midnight. We would have to sit through the hour-long Mass – sometimes more if we got the slow-talker Priest – and run back to the frozen car to warm up before driving back to the Rez to open up our gifts. Every now and then we would go to Patuanak for Midnight Mass – an hour away – and I remember hearing the hymns being sung in Dene and wearing my jacket inside the old, wooden church that had the doors open as the Church was so full people would stand outside to attend Mass. Once home, Mom and Dad would let us open our gifts, but only after Church and with the understanding that meant less gifts to open in the morning. And come Christmas morning, there was always a present from Santa and a stocking full of candy, oranges, peanuts and small toys.
Not too much has changed in how we celebrate Christmas nowadays. Our families have grown. Between snags and sweeties, life long partners and broken hearts, we have built up our family enough that Mom’s house is now much like Grandma Boyer’s house was back in the day – full of laughter and food, cousins and stories. My oldest brother has three boys and his long-time partner, my other brother and his wife have three girls, I have my daughter and my youngest brother brings a new sweetie every Christmas. She’s always interesting. The Christmas tree gets smaller as our present haul get bigger, and Mom tries something new with the stocking every few years to try and make ‘more room’ in our home.
A few years ago, we done away with buying each individual a Christmas Present and instead, draw names out of a hat. I protested loudly. I was outnumbered. Then Mom tried to get rid the stockings and I protested loudly – “Quit trying to ruin Christmas!” She laughed, told me Christmas is for our kids, not for us (“but Im YOUR kid,” I whispered loudly) and we compromised. For the stockings, we each buy a little thing for everyone and stuff the stockings that way. It works for us, and yeah…. the adult kids still get Santa gifts.
BECAUSE SANTA IS MAGIC, y’all.
so, funny story:
Aerie was six months old on her first Christmas. I was living at home with my parents and my partner at the time, and it was heaven. So much help and support. Anyways, we did the Xmas shopping, the holiday baking, blah blah blah. All the usual. We went to Midnight Mass with Aerie, and we opened our family presents when we got back. So the morning comes, and we rush upstairs, because we are still kids at heart. Tal and my partner and myself all have Santa presents and we’re super happy, then I look around for Aerie’s.
“Mom,” I question. “Where’s Aerie’s Santa gift?”
Mom gave me a look. “What do you mean?”
“Where’s her gift? I don’t see it.” I was looking around and feeling really sad, as it was my baby’s first Christmas.
“Tenille,” Mom said, doing her choking-and-crying-because-I’m-holding-back-a-laugh face, “YOU’RE SANTA. You are Santa to your own daughter.”
“… NO ONE TOLD ME I WAS SANTA!”
Mom laughed so hard that day, and she still laughs when she thinks about it and tries to tell someone the story.
But for me, my absolute favourite tradition is the one where we make all our kids sit and take a Campbell Kids picture.
Mom used to do this with us – she also used to dress us alike – so we have no pity on our babies. Despite – or maybe because of – the crying faces because they are tired and the scared faces because we are all staring at them and the annoyed faces because they are over this – this is my favourite event of the day. I get to see my babies growing older, I get to see our family grow, and we all get to continue a tradition that our kids will look back at and go “remember this Christmas?“
– tenille campbell