Almost everyone has that one holiday decoration that you cherish more than the others. Perhaps it’s a family heirloom or something that reminds you of your childhood. Or maybe it’s something you made yourself. We asked a few of our writers to talk about their favorite decorations, and they didn’t disappoint.
A Silly Little Choo-Choo Train
When it comes to celebrating Christmas, my family does not mess around.
I was born Christmas day, so it should come as no surprise that it is my favorite day of the year. Christmas presents in the morning, birthday dinner in the evening—it’s no wonder my childhood-self could never fall asleep on the 24th.
But my family’s love of the season—the Christmas traditions that have come to define the end of each year and the start of the next—started well before me; before any of my relatives thought it clever to tell my mom that she should name me after my great-great uncle Rudolph.
In fact, I don’t really know when Christmas came to take on such an important role in my family’s story. It’s just always been that way, as far as I can tell.
December 25 is the one day each year that you can’t, under any circumstances, not be home for the holidays. My mom and her three brothers have never missed a Christmas, an impressive 64-year streak that me and my siblings are determined to beat. So far, we’re 24 for 24, a perfect record that we’re all quite proud of.
Christmas is the only day each year that I know exactly where I will be and what I will be doing.
In the morning, I will wake up in my childhood bed, my siblings asleep in rooms next door, and listen for the sound of my parents’ downstairs. I will get up, walk to the living room, and take a seat on the couch in my pajamas with a mug of coffee while I wait for everyone to find their way to the Christmas tree.
The air will smell of fir needles and cinnamon rolls, with the occasional whiff of woodsmoke sneaking out from the fireplace. Christmas music will fill the room like sunlight, and everything will feel right with the moment, right with the world.
We’ll open presents, eat the usual breakfast of homemade cinnamon rolls and egg dish with a glass of fresh orange juice, and at some point, someone will, inevitably, set off the train…
CHUgga chugga chugga. CHUgga chugga chugga.
Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding.
Ka-klunk ka-klunk, ka-klunk ka-klunk.
It is such a silly little Christmas tree ornament, but it is an ornament that has come to mean so, so much to my family and I over the years.
Like the season itself, I don’t know where or when that little red and green locomotive with the button on top of the stack that you can press to hear a series of recorded train sounds came into our lives, but at some point, it choo choo-ed its way into our hearts and wove itself into the very fabric of the holiday season.
I press the train’s worn button and am brought back to a past Christmas where my wish list comprised mostly of Legos and I worried that Santa might miss our chimney on his way back North.
I listen to the train ornament’s recording and am reminded of the year that our cat Taffy pulled down the Christmas tree, of the years when you could tell the height of my siblings and I based on how high up the Christmas tree the ornaments made it.
I see that train and I’m reminded of the first Christmas that I could have wine with the adults and how weird that made me feel, and of the first Christmas that I spent with my wife.
I hear the sound of that train and I’m reminded of how silly our traditions can be—and why they are so important.
A Unique Christmas Decoration
One of my most treasured Christmas decorations is a beautiful candle lantern which was a gift from my daughter. It was crafted by a tinsmith at the Fort William Historical Park, close to our city of Thunder Bay. I have always loved visiting this site and seeing how things were made with meticulous attention to detail in the 19th century. My candle lantern is a good example of such fine work, for the design is perfectly crafted to let the light come through at just the right angles and proportions.
I especially appreciate my lantern’s soft glowing light at Christmas time when we are experiencing the darkest days of mid-winter. Seeing the lantern, flanked by a few smaller but also lovely candles, never fails to lift my spirits and renew a sense of hope. In these days when our world is struggling to overcome the ravages of a global pandemic, we need such symbols of hope, love and beauty.
Hope is also needed when we try to address the urgent environmental issues of our times. On April 22 each year, our family honours Earth Day by turning off all our electric lights and appliances and enjoying a quiet Earth Hour by candlelight. Our tin candle lantern provides beautiful illumination as we look out at the stars, drink a glass of wine, and share a few thoughts. My parents, who lived through the Great Depression and never wanted to waste anything, would be very pleased that my special candle lantern is not used for a few short days at Christmas and then hidden away in a box for another year. They also taught me, by their example, to enjoy the simple gifts of life—music, laughter, shared meals, and all the light you can encourage to shine and reflect.
May your holiday season be filled with light!