December brings a mix of joy and tears in Elk Valley

December is the most fascinating month of the year for me.

December is the most fascinating month of the year for me.

I find it the happiest and also the most melancholy of times. Bustling activities and events, plus special foods and the spiritual component, definitely makes it distinctive from the other months.

Famed psychiatrist- author Elizabeth Kubler-Ross said “People are like stained glass windows, they sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light within.” December is like that for me.

The days are full of activity with things to do and prepare but the long winter nights at times are filled only by the warmth of friends and family. December is also a good month for reflection on the past year, recalling occasions and friends and family gone. I tend to remember the times when my parents were both alive. I was very young when my father left Italy to cross the Atlantic and arrive at Halifax on Christmas Eve 1951. I imagine how forlorn he must have felt leaving his wife and three young children and to be in a strange country, not knowing the language. We followed two-and-a-half years later and I recall the first Christmas in Fernie, living in a one bedroom house with rough wood floors, no phone, no television and no refrigerator. We did have a real tree decorated with a paper Mache angel sporting a silver plastic dress. I still have that angel, a little rough for wear, its paper wings missing and face scratched.

I remember the last Christmas with my mother who died just weeks past her 49th birthday. My mother was very ill, but still she put on the traditional Christmas Eve dinner of baccala, dried salted codfish and numerous vegetables and desserts. I look back and marvel at her ability to do that for her family. It was that ‘light within’ that propelled her to gather enough strength to able her to do the work that it takes to put on such a dinner.

Christmas wasn’t a time of gifts for us. It was really about people. I recall how a group of Italian friends would stop by to have a drink and eat a little something, they would sing Italian songs, arms on each other’s shoulders, peel oranges and put slices into a glass of wine, eat roasted chestnuts and pitta drenched in honey and nuts. After a while they would move on to the next home. Food was never put away on Christmas Eve so that anyone that dropped in could partake of it. After mom passed away I took over the maternal role and have cooked the traditional dinner for family sometimes 25 strong at the table.

December is really about love for those around us. We show love by showering gifts and food, while making memories. School plays and concerts, parties, dinners, bright lights and decorations, at a time of the year when days are short and nights long we use those things to fill us up so that we can shine our own light in and out of our lives, filled with the many emotions that are in reality only expressions of the power of love.

Happy New Year everyone. May 2012 be filled with much love, friendship and peace for you and your families.