The Ghosts Of Christmas Past

christmas 2007
Image by paparutzi via Flickr

— Christmas dinner in Montreal with friends, then flying BOAC with tinsel garlands hanging across the aisle, to have Christmas Day dinner with my aunt and uncle in London

— Living in Cuernavaca, Mexico with my mother, and trimming the smallest, weediest little tree we’d ever seen (think of the tree in A Charlie Brown Christmas)

— Coming out of midnight Christmas Eve service at church, just as it’s starting to snow, and Jose suggests we go to the lych gate — where he proposes!

— Getting stuck on the 401, the world’s most boring highway, heading back to Montreal from Toronto, in a scary blizzard, trying to stay warm until the tow-truck came

— The first Christmas living with my Dad, at 15, years after my parents split up when I was seven, showered with lovely and thoughtful gifts I used for years, like the cheery red, yellow and blue patchwork quilt for my bed

— meeting a dishy, blue-eyed engineer, home from Khartoum, on a flight from Dublin to Bristol, and running off into the Welsh fog for a few days with him, back in my crazy single days

— getting frisked by the cops after attending midnight Mass at the cathedral in Cartagena, Colombia

— Heading into the insanity of Boxing Day sales with Jose

— Jose’s first Christmas dinner with my fractious, loud family of table-thumpers. As we sat around expounding and bloviating, interrupting and opining, he finally slammed the table himself, to our enormous shock. “Take turns!” he said. Stunned, like dogs who’ve had the hose turned on us, we did — for a few minutes. Welcome to the family, sweetie!

— My first Christmas with Jose, in 2001, when my gifts included a toaster and a colander. Not sexy, but useful and still very much appreciated

What was your best — or worst — Christmas memory?

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Have a great holiday!

Greetings From The Frozen North — Merry Christmas!

A group of Santa Clauses walks through snowy w...
Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

We’re home with my Dad in Toronto, staying as warm as possible. You know it’s a Canadian Christmas when:

Your friend  wants the cold to be so bitter that her front lawn will freeze so the moving truck can pull right up to her front door.

Her sister is marrying on Boxing Day, but because they are Sikhs, it’s a three-day affair.

You eat the traditional French-Canadian Christmas meal of tourtiere, a meat pie, sort of hamburger in pastry. The cook, my old friend Marcia, is the grand-daughter of Nellie McClung, who is featured on the $50 bill for helping to win Canadian women the vote.

You try to prepare the turkey and — like so many in Canada — it keeps leaning to the left.

Your Dad buys the oysters for Christmas dinner unshucked. Talk about an ER visit waiting to happen. That’s what free healthcare will do — give you that delicious sense of abandon.

You buy Chinese food from a dive-y joint in a shady neighborhood, called Yummy Food, and it’s some of the best Chinese we’ve ever eaten anywhere.

You lie awake, barely able to sleep with anticipation. No, not Santa Claus — Boxing Day sales! The Canuck equivalent of Black Friday, but even more so, because there are many fewer stores and their profit margins typically higher than in the U.S. You think a hockey scrum is fierce? Hah!

You find out the secret to getting someone helpful when dealing with voicemail hell. When they ask if you want English or French, hit the button for “French” — because operators in Montreal speak English, but those in Bangalore don’t speak French.

You can re-stock the most essential of supplies: Big Turk, Crispy Crunch, Crunchie and all the Canadian candy bars unavailable south of the border.

Hoping your holiday is filled with warmth and fun.