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Niagara Falls
Monday, February 26, 2024
Ross’s Ramblings: Our town shines as a primo holiday season destination
The Gamble children from Welland mailing their letters, with anticipation, to Santa Claus. ROSS ROBINSON

So much to do, and so many spirited local folks making Christmas-y things happen.

Last weekend, visitors from nearby towns and faraway countries descended on Niagara-on-the-Lake, enthusiastically getting into the holiday spirit.

People plan short road trips around the many events we tend to take for granted.

Take some time and hang out on Queen Street. The red mailbox for letters to Santa, well located in front of the Court House, is a magnet for nervous youngsters.

They hesitantly approach and then shyly deposit their carefully written envelopes, lovingly addressed to “Santa Claus, North Pole.” Hohoho.

And again this year, every letter will be answered by Santa and his helpers. What a wonderful and pure contribution to the season by Canada Post employees, apparently all across our unique and fortunate nation.

Out at the Living Water Wayside Chapel, the little white church next to Walker’s Country Market, Rick Meloen and Albrecht Seeger organized their third-annual carol sing-along, under gray but dry skies.

Happily, these were still skies and there was not a cold wind like last year.

How Canadian, when a flock of Canada geese flew over, loudly honking and heading somewhere.

I recently learned why one side of their V formation is always much longer than the other side. Why, you ask? Because there are more geese on that side of the V.

Setting the scene was talented chanteuse Dianne Ticknor, dressed so festively for the Christmas season in layers of cozy red clothing.

Her pitch pipe was at the ready, and skilfully used, which gave us less reason to be singing off-key.

Seeger and Meloen organized a portable mini generator that was deftly attached to a portable microphone to bring everyone together in song. Hurray, they overspent on sound!

Copies of the world’s best Christmas Carol songbook, appropriately titled “Favourite Christmas Carols and Songs” were distributed to each warmly dressed caroller, in large type — to help those of us who get frustrated by church hymnals that try to squeeze too many words onto each page.

“Deck the Halls” was a rousing start, and later we got serious and religious with “O Holy Night.” What a treat to have a well-amplified professional singer leading us through all three verses, and even some descanted melodies and choruses. We finished in good voice with “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

Life is not perfect, even along the fairly world-famous Niagara Parkway. Our dulcet tunes were occasionally interrupted by hot cars and noisy, macho motorcycles passing by and revving up their engines.

Do they just do that to make a statement? To bug us? Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt, wave to them and wish them a Merry Christmas. Be forgiving.

At this time of year, I remember my mom, dad and older sister, all gone now. I really became aware of family and Christmas traditions during our five years living in Winnipeg.

Each summer, we would take a family drive through different parts of the city, from River Heights to North Kildonan and other neighbourhoods. Then, to the huge and magnificent  Assiniboine Park for a family walk. Wasn’t life simpler then?

The four of us had no trouble entertaining ourselves by commenting on new buildings or points of interest in different parts of the city, then a hike along the Monkey Trails by the prairie draining river.

No portable car phones with an antenna on the window, or electronic devices. No video screens, and we would chat and discuss. Seriously, can you imagine? And not that long ago.

My mom and dad were very different, but both very wonderful and memorable. Values were not taught: values were caught! Mom from Cochrane in Northern Ontario, and Dad from Regina and some long-forgotten rural town in Saskatchewan.

They were both solid people, 100 per cent Canadian, strong, kind and grateful for our life in Canada.

I have always remembered one August car ride in Winnipeg, when we came upon a street with several houses that still had Christmas lights along the eaves troughs and around the windows. In the middle of summer.

“My goodness,” said Mom, “those people aren’t taking very good care of their houses.”

“Whaddayamean?” said Dad. “Those people are really organized. They have their Christmas lights up early.”

Lessons learned from my family. It’s all how we think and interpret, as we go through life. The Good Lord makes chocolate, vanilla and many other flavours.

Just outside of the south end of Winnipeg, we saw a two or three-story building with lots of little kids outside playing. When I asked what the name of the school was, my dad casually replied, “Oh, that’s the Indian school.”

It was never mentioned again. And not that long ago, eh?

Is that wine glass half empty or half full?  Whatever.  Either way, there’s still wine in it?

Enjoy the festive season, and say hello to all you know.

Spread the love.

Be kind.

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