Wilderness Ice Skating
By Jon R. Remus
Our festive holiday tradition promotes both great exercise and an enchanting outdoor experience for multiple generations to skate together on natural ice. An afternoon in the brisk air, sheltered by towering snow-covered pine trees, and gliding across the “hard water” of a frozen pond, guarantees to put you into a joyous mood. With little to no expenses involved, you can invite as many friends and family as possible to join in the fun.
It’s easily imagined: past generations riding in a horse-drawn sleigh or large family sedan, out to a local pond with shovels in hand to clear a patch of ice. The popularity of canal skating is evident in Canadian cities like Winnipeg and Ottawa. Minnesota also has endless opportunities with thousands of small lakes and neighbourhood ponds for skating and ice fishing.
People with all levels of skating experience can partake, from the complete novice to the former hockey player and figure skater in the family. Little ones can be pulled in a toboggan, while the family dog enjoys bounding through snow drifts and chewing on sticks. The appetite developed by the high energy output is fully satisfied with fire-roasted sausages and s’mores treats, cooked on the end of a stick, and paired with a steaming mug of hot chocolate or cider.
I prepare the day before, using an ATV plow to make a path down to the pond and meticulously circle around until just the right width and smoothness are obtained. Be sure to pay close attention to possible areas of thin ice, like adjacent to a beaver house or creek in/out flows. Check the ice thickness with a hand auger or axe, making sure to have a minimum of 6 inches.
When legs get tired, I’ll add straps to the back of the ATV and pull participants around the ice, creating our own little roller derby. Sometimes, even an impromptu pond hockey match starts by passing around the puck, without the formality of nets, boards, or blue lines.
When the temperature allows, and the snow is pliable to be rolled and molded, snowball fights break out, or a snowman sculpture is built.
There are no age limitations (old or young) to join in the fun. Skates can be dusted off, borrowed, or picked up at a second-hand store. Even my 85-year-old mother tied on the blades and used her walker to avoid any potential injury. A helmet is practical for beginners, in case of an unexpected slip and fall. We are paying homage to how an old-fashioned holiday gathering on ice has a rejuvenating effect on the soul.
With a little bit of planning and a scouting trip to locate a convenient nearby pond, your family can start their own on-ice tradition. I wish you and yours the very best of the season.
The Sentence Game
By Hartley Newell-Acero
In our family, we laugh ourselves silly playing the Sentence Game. It’s like a mashup of Telephone and Pictionary. It works best with at least four people. The only supplies needed are sheets of blank paper, something to write with, and a willingness to leave your artistic critiques at the door.
Start by taking the blank sheets of paper (one for each person playing) and folding them like fans (but a short fan, not a long one). The first fold should be about 1-inch wide, the next fold should be about 2 inches, then 1 inch, then 2 inches, and so on until you run out of paper. Try to finish with a 1-inch fold.
Each person gets a piece of paper and in the first 1-inch fold, writes a goofy prompt describing an imaginary scene, i.e. “The moose family enjoys their Hawaiian vacation.”
Going in one direction, everyone then passes the paper to the next person. In the 2-inch section, person number two now draws that scene. When done, they fold the original prompt backwards, so that only the drawing is visible.
The paper is then passed on to person number three, who looks only at the drawing, and writes a description in the 1-inch section underneath it. They then fold the paper backwards, so that only their description is showing.
Without looking at any of the previous drawings, the next person now draws their interpretation of the caption in front of them, and folds the caption back, leaving only the picture showing.
After one more caption, picture, and then a grand finale caption, that round of the game is done, and the serious laughing begins!
One by one, each page is unfolded and everyone can see and read all the captions and illustrations.
Stick people are the upper limit of my drawing ability. Even with that, the Sentence Game is one of my favorites—I always end up with my face hurting from laughing so much! I hope you and your loved ones give it a try, and I hope that you have as much fun as we do.
Evolving Holiday Traditions
By Michelle Miller
I feel fortunate to be surrounded by a large extended family. If there are not 30 people around the table at any given holiday, something is definitely missing. However, as the years go by, the dynamics of a large family shift, and traditions are reinvented. Elders pass away, the homestead is no longer the gathering place, and as children grow and have families of their own, new routines are formed.
Some of my earliest Christmas memories are going to Grandma’s house and spending the evening singing carols, telling outrageous stories, and enjoying amazing food. The next morning, our smaller family unit would open gifts at home. For many years, one of those gifts was cozy flannel winter jammies that Mom had made for each of us seven kids. Later in my childhood, a new tradition of going “up north” to Osakis, MN, began. Several aunts, uncles, and cousins would join for a weeklong stay by the lake to enjoy fishing, ice skating, and playing cards. There was always something fun to do and someone there to do it with. Many of our brand-new gifts were “broken in” on that trip—fishing gear, winter jackets, board games, or homemade cuddle blankets.
Creating holiday ornaments was a pre-holiday activity we engaged in for years. Our kitchen table became a workstation filled with colorful supplies, glue guns, a sewing machine, or materials gathered from nature. The theme varied from year to year, and we worked like a well-oiled machine, turning out finished items by the dozens to be shared with family and friends. Few ornaments have survived over the 40-plus years, yet when it comes time to set up the tree each year, they vividly appear in my memory.
A consistent tradition I have carried into my adulthood is hanging stockings. They may or may not be filled with treats, but if I know you will be spending Christmas with me, you will be sure to have a stocking hanging with honor, personalized with your name.
How we celebrate the holidays indeed shifts and evolves over time, but being with those you care about is truly the best tradition of all.