December Traditions: The Magic of Childhood / a picture of a mother and daughter decorating the Christmas tree

December Traditions

Melissa Gosselin

Happy Wednesday, everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your loved ones. As we officially enter the holiday season, I’ve been reflecting on some of my childhood Christmas traditions. I’ve reflected on holidays in the past— like the journal questions I did for Canadian Thanksgiving. In that post, I explored my most vivid fall memories and how they inform the way I spend time with my family during the holidays. The beginning of December was always a special time. It was usually coupled with the final stretch at school— exams and papers due. Still, it was a time of comfort — in the chaos of the world, in the impermanence of existence, there were a few small things that stayed the same.

December 1st was when we started our advent calendars . . . and Mom would let us have our chocolate after breakfast, before we got on the school bus. December was when Mom and I started making all the Christmas treats to freeze — my favorite being Mom’s sugar cookies. December was when we would skate on the makeshift ice-rink in our backyard, spend afternoons building snow forts under the swing set with Dad. 

As the weeks of December went by, our bed sheets would be changed to “couverte chaude” (fleece sheets) and we’d get our “cozy socks”. My brother and I would use our Christmas CDs as the soundtrack to elaborate games where we were elves in Santa’s workshop. Our family would start watching Christmas movies, which gradually changed over the years. For a while it was Home Alone, then The Grinch, then Elf. When I got a little older, my mom and I would watch Little Women and It’s a Wonderful Life

Despite all the different ways we would create the spirit of Christmas, there was one object that seemed to encompass everything. As far back as I can remember, my brother and I would unpack our Christmas decorations in anticipation... tossing tissue paper aside, opening one box after another until we found it... 

The Skating Bear Music Box

The bear had a red Christmas hat and green scarf. The ice on the music box was a mirror. There was a magnet that made the bear stick to the ice, that made the bear skate around the rink. When my brother and I were little, that music box was magic... we could spend hours at a time placing the bear in different spots, watching the bear “jump” when the magnet caught up to it. 

One year, the music box fell and broke my brother and I were devastated. Dad knew how important Skating Bear was, so he made sure to get it fixed by having a new mirror put on. The “ice” didn’t quite fit within the shape of the snow after that, but at least it was a story we could tell when the music box emerged from storage year after year.

I don’t know exactly what it was about Skating Bear that was so important. Maybe it had to do with the sound, the feeling of the magnet pulling the bear along that made the memory stick. Maybe traditions are the string that connect the past and the present, a way to be transported back to the innocence and magic of childhood. 

What family traditions do you hold dear? Don’t forget to share in the comments below! 

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