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Opinion: Bill Walton, Christmas Dinner

If you can afford a special meal, go for it.
Our Cuban neighbours on Christmas morn

If you are one of the fortunate ones going to have a traditional Christmas dinner – speaking of the ones epitomized by olde European lore that involves a dead turkey or a goose, then pause a moment and thank your lucky stars. Or if your tradition involves a roast of ham, a shank of sheep, or a beef prime rib, jolly good for you. Or if your native or local tradition involves a substitution of local game or a meatless repast, dig in. Or indeed if you follow some non-Christian ritual celebrating the Yule or winter solstice and you can afford a special meal, go for it.

If on the other hand, you cannot afford the festive season meal, still consider yourself fortunate if you have shelter from the elements, or in a worse-case scenario, shelter from the unconscionable fighting, falling bombs, or the harsh reality of a refugee camp. You can still be thankful, celebrating another day with hope for better times.

Alternatively, you may be someone who decries all these trappings of commercialism that tempts us to largess, gift-giving, and fable perpetuation of celebrating St Nick, a.k.a. the whiskered chap in red from the North Pole (disputed territory) with traditional carols and pop songs. Do not let the title of ‘Grinch’ discourage you. You can still, anonymously, contribute to the Kettle or the Fund without people discovering your true character.

You are blessed indeed if you can give a gift, wrapped in recycled paper with a re-purposed ribbon, then do so, for bringing a little joy to the world is certainly a gift. Or if you must forgo a gift because of pecuniary issues, a simple greeting of "Season’s Greetings and a Happy New Year" will suffice for one or two of your 8,000,000,000 neighbours.

This is where the wonderful idea of a couple of days of peace and quiet runs into issues: only a small percentage of the 8 billion people on earth follow the Christian teaching, and even those are split into factions of political right and left and the accompanying ideology; some hold to Old Testament values that have issues with sexuality; some are selective on interpretations of their history even going back to the tribal days, or decrying what is fit to eat and what is not. Although Christian believers have made great strides in the equality of the female sex, too much remains to address by their fellow Christmas celebrants, in great part due to one of those deadly sins – greed. Or spelled differently – gouging.

Sorry. I started this column thinking to tell you about some of the wonderful Christmas dinners I have enjoyed over the years and became distracted by the National News on TV. Growing up, our family did not have much money but a turkey at Christmas was good value for your dollar. Turkey dinner, turkey sandwiches for days, and then turkey soup. Life at Christmas time was pretty special, although I did miss the cranberries when times were tight.

During ‘University years’ we counted on relatives for the traditional turkey dinner but one year we were snowbound and short of travel money so we shared a Cornish hen. That seemed a letdown but I wonder today how many of our 8 billion neighbours would appreciate a Cornish hen for stewing or adding to the soup pot.

The first time I ever had a Christmas goose was with our German (they came to Canada after WWII) friends. Slow-cooked to let the fat melt and flavour the meat that fell off the bones, the goose was excellent. Potato dumplings, cooked red cabbage, Canadian wild rice, cranberries from the Callander marsh, and maple-candied carrots. And then a Sacher torte.

We escaped to Cuba one Christmas and while we did have a turkey dinner, there lingered a little of the communist atmosphere where officially the day was not celebrated, however, the hotel staff pretended to join their guests in the traditions of dressing as Santas, and elves – some non-hotel places put up decorations. There were only perfect sandy beaches to replace the snow, but generous portions of ‘cheer’ set the tone for the day while everyone sang Feliz Navidad.

This Christmas, friends invited me to dinner and they did it up in great style. I’m sure some of my family will send me cell photos of what’s on their plates for dinner. (They will, of course, put down their phones while eating, waiting to text or Facebook until after dessert)! My wish for this Christmas is that all the Christians or people of Good Cheer will spread the spirit of the season to reach, even days later, all 8 billion of us.

Is it too much to ask for peace on earth? Just asking.

Bill Walton

About the Author: Bill Walton

Retired from City of North Bay in 2000. Writer, poet, columnist
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