Sunday, December 22, 2013


            One of these Christmases I plan on spending the holiday season down south. Somewhere warm – Cuba, the Dominican Republic, doesn’t matter, just so long as I can attend Christmas Eve service in short pants.
            It seems that whenever I mention my dream to people, someone feels the need to offer a bit of wisdom along the lines of, “It won’t feel like Christmas without snow.” Let me offer a simple rebuttal. This is a fallacy.
            All those classic holiday specials where Bing and Perry sang Christmas carols in the falling snow were actually filmed in California studios where nobody ever suffered so much as a cool breeze. Irving Berlin wrote his classic song “White Christmas” while enjoying life in his Hollywood mansion. And don’t get me started on his other lyric from the White Christmas movie, “I want to wash my hands, my face and hair with snow.”
            I often speculate that our need to idealize the wonders of snow is probably some sort of defense mechanism. Holiday songs extolling its wonders, and picturesque cottage scenes by Thomas Kinkade, have combined with our very human sense of self-preservation to convince us that sub-zero temperatures and snarled up traffic somehow constitute a winter wonderland. Just because Santa Claus chooses to live in a frigid climate, do we all have to suffer?
            It feels like I have spent almost every Christmas of my adult life either struggling though snowstorms to get home for the holidays, or shoveling myself out once I got there. One year a raging blizzard managed to make my return drive from Montreal to Toronto into an 11-hour trip.  Another time a storm knocked out the electricity on Christmas Day, making dinner preparations a bit challenging. Last Boxing Day Montreal was pounded with the largest snowstorm ever recorded in that city’s history. 
            Before I come across sounding too Grinch-like, let me say that I do have fond memories of many Christmases; walking to midnight service in a light snowfall, tobogganing down snow-covered hills, enjoying the warmth of a fireplace and the twinkle of a brightly lit tree as I watched the flakes cascade gently past the window. 
            Magical moments, one and all; but strangely conspicuous by its absence is the memory of how unpleasantly cold the weather no doubt was. It’s almost like my brain discarded that information in order to make the recollection more festive.
            I am not speaking purely hypothetically here; rest assured I have actually experienced warm weather during the holiday season. A few years back I found myself wandering along the streets of Fort Lauderdale one late November evening, dressed in a t-shirt and shorts, admiring all the houses beautifully decorated in anticipation of Christmas.
            It was dark, the colored lights were magical, and I did not miss the cold and snow for one second. If anything, the warm weather enhanced the experience by allowing me to marvel at the wondrous lighting displays at my leisure. I didn’t need to enjoy them through a frost-covered windshield or be forced to retreat into a heated car seconds before hypothermia set in.
            In short, it made me realize that I could quite happily spend my entire holiday by the side of a pool, sipping a tropical Christmas cocktail. In fact I believe Christmas morning would be just as festive if the exchanging of gifts was followed up with a trip to the beach, and I am positive that the aroma of turkey wafting through the house is equally compelling when the temperature outdoors is 30 above rather than 30 below.
            I got married this past July, so Christmas trips must now be divided between my family in Quebec and hers in Manitoba. That’s right, I married someone who comes from an even colder province than I do. Why she could not have been raised in some tropical climate is beyond me, but rest assured I intend to bring up the topic the next we find ourselves digging out of the inevitable Christmas blizzard.
            So for this year at least I will relinquish my dream of a tropical Christmas and instead pretend that the holiday just wouldn’t be the same without bitter cold, icy roads and howling blizzards. However I will continue to promote my theory that everyone should head south next December. After all, it only makes sense. There must be some reason that the traditional choice to add to eggnog is tropical rum.
            Merry Christmas…or should I say Mele Kalikimaka!