Letter to the Editor: December 11, 2013


After more than 70 years of celebrating Christmas and always greeting everyone with “Merry Christmas,” I find it hard to break tradition by saying “Happy Holidays.” To me it comes across as sounding empty, rather generic, if that is a good word. What or which holidays are we talking about? If we are referring to Christmas, then why not just say, “Merry Christmas?” 
As a child, my fond memories of Christmas were not so much the gift; I said the “gift”, since I, like many other children at that time, expected only one gift. Obviously there was no opening a gift Christmas Eve. What would we do Christmas morning? To me Christmas was not the gift opening, even though one of my most exciting gifts as a boy was receiving my Red Ryder BB rifle and no I didn’t shoot my eye out.  By this time I realized there wasn’t a Santa, but I played the game as best I could, and my parents played along with me. After the suspense of the gift opening I couldn’t wait for the most exciting part of Christmas. 
We had a very light, quick breakfast because my mother was busy rushing around in the kitchen. The aroma of a Christmas feast was upon me. This was the day of all days, food and more food and friends and more friends and uncles dropping in; their chairs pushed up to the dining room table. Christmas dinner started around 2 p.m. and lasted until the last guest or uncle left the table. During all this time Mom never sat down to eat, but she was in her glory. My mom loved to cook and, being of Ukrainian descent, no guest could leave until they were stuffed. The table was overloaded with turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, mushroom gravy, meat balls, kowbasa, cabbage rolls, pyrgogies and homemade pickles of all sorts. Then there were the pies, lots of pies, and moist Christmas fruit cake. I would just eat and eat all day long and eavesdrop on the story- telling of the adults. 
Yes, Christmas was gorging on food and friends dropping in to visit. This was the one time of year that I could stay up as late as I wanted, but it was difficult to stay awake beyond nine. I’d go off to bed and fall asleep dreaming of what a great day it had been. Somewhere in all of this I was reminded that it was also the day Christ was born and that Christmas and the birth of Christ were intertwined; it was a feeling of happiness.
The next day was Boxing Day, a holiday I didn’t quite understand but believed it had something to do with England and championship boxing. Later I discovered it was an English holiday. Counts, dukes and the well-to-do would box up the delicious leftovers from their Christmas feast and deliver this food to their servants’ homes, since these folks were the working poor and could not afford such delectable and abundant food. Interesting, I thought we invented the food shelf, and yet the well-to-do Brit’s cared enough over 300 years ago to help feed the less fortunate.
So where am I going with all of this? Christmas has always been a very happy time for me and my family and even though we had the CPR railway go through our town, we didn’t have a Christmas train. I can’t imagine how I would have handled a decorated Christmas train, Santa greeting the crowd and  being entertained by live music and Christmas carols. I don’t think I could have survived the wait ‘til Christmas morning.
We truly are blessed that Annandale has the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train to jump-start Christmas. Each year I attend, I am as excited as the little children who are perched on Dad’s shoulders waiting for the first glimpse of Santa and the thousands of lights. I know many of the children in attendance will not experience the Christmas feast that I came to expect, but I am pleased the community I live in is so giving and that CPR continues to stop in Annandale to support our Food Shelf. The people of Maple Lake, Annandale and South Haven are tightly knit and caring for those less fortunate; your Food Shelf will never be empty. To me this shows the spirit of giving, the spirit of Christmas is evident 12 months of the year. Thank you for your outstanding generosity.
I encourage you to come out to the Christmas train. You will be engulfed in the festive spirit and if you feel blessed, consider making a donation so those less fortunate will not have to go hungry.
Before the event is over, turn to your neighbor and wish them a Merry Christmas like you mean it, and don’t be surprised if they smile back and their response is “Merry Christmas.”
Hope you can join us at the Oak Street Crossing in Annandale to see the magnificent Canadian Pacific Holiday Train pull into town Sunday, Dec. 15, at 7:15. Show starts at 7:30.
Ed Skomoroh, president
Annandale Food Shelf