East Meets West: A Canadian Sitcom Christmas Miracle

Tradition; it’s a hell of a buzzword when the holidays come around. What does Christmas look like in your world? A hectic table with relatives yelling and jovially ribbing each other? A silent night between you and your partner? Sleep the day away with a big old “Nope” as your retort to the holiday? Perhaps you get to be with your chosen family unwrapping the presents you got them knowing that there’s no place you’d rather be? All bets have been off, tradition-wise since I started traipsing around Canada and I’ve experienced all the aforementioned examples.

I never officially spent a Christmas in St. John’s, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t get to be merry and bright around lovely people. My friend Kris had invited me to his party, Band Aid on Balt. The annual shindig in which pals come together to celebrate and do some good via a drunken sing along to “Do They Know Its Christmas” while raising funds that were donated to famine in Africa.

Before the singing, I was still battling the greatest Christmas villain of them all; retail. I was worried that I would miss the party due to work. Silly Mainlander, don’t you know? Newfoundland parties tend to not end early. And then, just like a sitcom Christmas miracle, I was cut early. I popped on my tinsel crown, hiked up my red pants (because there ain’t no party like a red pants party. It’s a thing), and toting a bottle of champagne, I made like Jolly Ole St. Nick himself, to rock around the Christmas tree. I vividly remember walking into the apartment among cheerful greetings, hugs and Christmas music. I was so glad to be around those people, so grateful to be part of an inclusive community.

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A few years later, a few provinces apart, it was a very different holiday; I spent Christmas alone. I won’t pretend that it was easy. It wasn’t in the cards for me to go back to Ontario. I had been in Vancouver for a few months but didn’t know anyone well enough to crash on a couch and look on while they, alongside kith and kin, tore into a pile of presents.  I had planned to have a friend come over for brunch, instead, she was three hours late due to attending a different brunch with people she had known longer than me.

The moral of the story is that I was meant to be alone. I was meant to spend that time with myself, for myself. I couldn’t get around this moment. I turned the lights on the little Christmas tree that an old boyfriend’s mom gave me, that I still gratefully put up every year, pressed play on the Yuletide tunes and cried into that ruined brunch that would not be eaten.  

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I don’t regret that Christmas. I don’t bemoan how hollow and sorry for myself I felt. It shifted my perspective, eventually. Who and what I’ve had in my life. Examining the lack and, eventually, seeing the half-full part of the cup, that’s the gift that keeps giving.  And for a gal who always got wicked psyched for Christmas, learning this lesson was a real mother fucker.

The next year would be different; it would mark a major shift in my life. Never underestimate the ability to surprise yourself. That Christmas was to be spent with my roommate’s family; it would be a motley crew of East Van Orphans and friends of the family. But, family, I needed my family. I hadn’t been home in years. And before I knew it, I had a ticket booked. Just like that, a hair-brained scheme turned into something my cousin would call one for the books. Something that was barely a thought had turned into an actuality, and on December 24 around 9:00PM I left the warmth and cheerful wishes of the kind strangers to pack for my early morning flight.

I clomped through a refreshingly empty airport, after maybe three hours of sleep, and, ready or not, it was time to fly into my future, fly into my past. Being in a plane is sort of like being in limbo, concurrently cheating and being humbled by time.  What a curious space to exist in.  I was vibrating out of my skin.

Four hours and change, and a few time zones later; Ontario. My dear friend Laura picked me up, and we did that giggle and cry and laugh and did that hold each other thing that’s reserved for decade-old friends in the arrivals area. 15 minutes later, with only my brother and my cousin knowing what was in store, I rang the doorbell of my parent’s home. Seeing my mom dissolve into tears while calling me by my full name, seeing my dad peeping round the corner in disbelief, well, there’s the second Christmas Sitcom Miracle of this column;, one of the happiest moments of my life. That year, with my parents, brother and sister in law, my sweet aunt and my dear cousins, we laughed and cried and toasted late into the night. Family. Sometimes you do get what you want and what you need.

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And what of Christmas this year? I won’t be spending the twenty-fifth with the biological fam jam (though incidentally, I did just book my visit to good ole Ktown in January). Truthfully, I’m not terribly Christmassy this year. I even tried putting on Christmas music while getting ready for my annual work party, only to promptly switch it back to Cold War Kids and proceed to head to the party and am still navigating a two-day hangover (getting old, not always glamorous, amirght? ).

But that’s ok, I’m not going to force anything. Yet, I know I will enjoy being in PJs for three days straight with my friends who’ve become family. I know that wherever I am, I’m welcome. Most importantly, I’m welcoming myself. 

Merry Christmas Merry Christmas, But I think I'll miss this one this year…