Whose Birthday is it anyway?

While perusing the Halifax Chronicle Herald yesterday I couldn’t help but notice all the enticements to spend, spend, spend….before it’s too late. Too late for what, I wondered. Is the world coming to an end on December 25th? There were Christmas blowout sales. Is that something like a tire blowout? There were ads telling me to “Shop NOW and save”, others telling me they had great last minute gifts; and yet others telling me to give the gifts they’re really craving. Who? And now they  have a “Beat the Boxing week rush” sale. Hmm…it used to be just Boxing day, now it’s boxing week; time to spend on all the things you didn’t get for Christmas. I remember growing up in Newfoundland when Boxing Day meant that my family would get together with another family and we’d share turkey leftovers done up as ‘chicken patties’. It was a time for visiting and relaxing, not rushing out to get even bigger bargains than before Christmas.

I still like to get all my Christmas shopping done early so that in the last few day’s mad rush when everyone else is out in the malls frantically searching for the aforesaid ‘last  minute gift’, I can sit on a bench in the mall and do some serious people watching. If the scene wasn’t so pathetic, it would be funny. You see people on a mission to get gifts for everyone on their lists, without giving much thought to what they would buy. The look of focused desperation on their faces is priceless. Clutching bags full of what they’ve already bought,  they go up and down the aisles hoping to be enlightened and find that last thing for ‘that special someone’. Everyone has the same 365 days in a year. Why is it that some people, like my sister, can get all her gifts bought or made by the end of the summer, when others are out at 3PM on December 24th?

The malls are nothing compared to the grocery stores. In the last few days before Christmas I have seen people buy more food than any family could eat in a month, let alone just one Christmas dinner. They buy so much, they say, just in case people drop in ( they seldom do). You’d think the stores were going to close for the whole twelve days of Christmas, not just one day. People fill their carts with the things of the season: nuts, cheeses, drinks, crackers, ice cream, cakes, chocolates, and all those things which find themselves padding our waistlines sometime in early January.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas; I love the reason we celebrate it, and it truly is the season of peace on earth and goodwill toward men. I just wish it would be more like it was in days gone by, when people took the time to write Christmas cards, and spend time with family and friends, and when instead of wishing everyone ‘Happy Holidays’  they said “Merry Christmas”. Isn’t that the reason for the season… CHRISTmas?

Montreal Revisited

I’ve just gotten back from a week long visit to Montreal. I absolutely had to visit all my old haunts, see my old friends and drive past my old house, you know, just to make sure that everything was functioning well without me. However the real purpose of my trip was to go see my son Steve in concert at la salle Claude Champagne, universite de montreal. His piece? Rachmaninov’s 2nd concerto for piano. Never having been a lover of Rach, I tried to familiarize myself with the piece by listening to it’s three movements on YouTube (whatever would us peons do without YouTube?). The concert was amazing! After months of practice, Steve, accompanied by l’orchestre de l’universite de montreal,  gave a performance second to none, in front of about a thousand people. I was one proud Momma, and I think I like Rachmaninov now. Who knew?

Serendipitously, the warehouse sale of Gourmet du Village in Morin Heights was on during my visit. Ever the lover of bargains and sales, I made sure I got there. Dip mixes, salts, peppers, chocolate things, spicy things and sweet things assaulted me at the door. And there were samples of everything; products were all at wholesale prices. It was such a momentous event that there were even TV crews there filming one and all. I may have ended up on TV; who knows? (Nothing like going incognito). Laden with all kinds of gifts and things that will become stocking stuffers, we stumbled out of the warehouse into a fairy tale scene:light snow falling and mountains all around. Ah, Laurentians, how I have missed you!

Another day was spent going to Adonis, the biggest and best Lebanese grocery store this side of the Middle East. (I kid you not.) Once again, I picked up some delights that I cannot name because they may end up under the Christmas tree or in someone’s stocking. Aisle after aisle assaulted me with the sights and smells of my childhood: olives, spices, fresh pita breads, nougat,Turkish delight, labneh, and the meats; oh the meats! There was kafta, kibbe, flattened and spiced grilled chicken, and lamb mishwi.

Then on to a Chinese grocery for more of those things you would never find in New Minas: rice paper wraps, spices, seaweed, pockys, shrimp chips and chili paste.I had a hard time to restrain myself. Where was I going to put all this stuff? My suitcase would weigh a ton.

It was a good thing I hardly brought any clothes. On the way to Montreal my suitcases were filled with gifts and food. Coming back they were filled with other gifts and other food; a little exchange of cultures, so to speak. It was also a good thing that Air Canada had a free baggage allowance because I was well over the usual limit in weight. It took both my sis and I to get one suitcase into the car.

And as December travel would dictate, the day of my departure from Montreal dawned to a blinding snowstorm with 15 cms of snow and more coming. But I did get out, albeit 15 minutes late. Kudos to Air Canada!

Landing in Halifax, I traded my winter boots for shoes, very happy to be home. Yes, home. I think Montreal will get along just fine without me. My home is in the peaceful Annapolis Valley.