Christmas is a season of holiday traditions

Holiday rituals in Oak Bay are as varied as its citizens

Claire Christinel arranges the figurines in her family’s créche

For Natalie West, Christmas just isn’t complete without a certain morning meal.

“We have a traditional breakfast of an egg-and-ham sandwich with fruit,” said West, a receptionist at the Monterey Rec Centre.

“That started when my children were just old enough to eat one. And now they’re 27, 27 and 28.”

West is just one of many Oak Bay residents for whom the season just isn’t complete without specific details falling into place. They’re the traditions which elevate Christmas to another level in the holiday hierarchy.

In Claire Christinel’s Hamiota Street home, the most beloved event of the season is decorating the Christmas tree.

“My two children, from their first year of Christmas, we’ve given them a special ornament each year,” she said. “Every year when we decorate the tree, it’s done right at the end of the day, and we have a finger-food dinner that we put out on the coffee table with festive drinks and Christmas music, and we start to unpack the decorations, which is the part that they love the most because they get to unwrap all these little treasures that they’ve been given year after year.”

Food is central to many holiday celebrations. Local artist Ingrid Fawcett hosts an annual New Year’s dinner with friends and family from all over.

“My sister and her family, and my mom, always arrive from the Lower Mainland and my brother and his twins always come from New York,” she said. “Cousins, friends, nieces and nephews have come from Toronto, London, California, Washington and the Netherlands. It’s always a surprise who will attend and (there is) always a full house.”

Other traditions in the Fawcett household include decorating the Christmas tree with fresh orchids and hosting an It’s a Wonderful Life movie night with family and friends.

As well, her family usually visits Butchart Gardens on Christmas eve.

Fawcett’s friends Jude Isabella and Tobin Stokes take a decidedly different approach. Their tradition is to not have traditions.

“One year we made pizza, we had a goose, one year we had curry,” Isabella said. “Nobody wants to clean up Christmas dinner, so we don’t have an elaborate one.”

She has lights up in her home year-round, so they don’t make a special effort to decorate around the holidays. She and Stokes often, however, decorate their fig tree. This year they’re heading to Whistler to “stay in a yurt and (go snowshoeing),” and possibly cut down a tree.

“We’ll get something pathetic,” Isabella said with a laugh, explaining that a small tree is easier to cut up and burn in the couple’s wood stove once the holidays are over.

When Darlaine Bagshaw was a child, games and music made her Christmas season special.

She remembers playing endless games of crokinole with her cousin and being offered a deal by the adults in the family.

“My mom and my aunt would say, ‘We’ll do the dishes if you two girls want to go and play the piano,’” Bagshaw said.

“So guess what we did? (We went and played) the piano. Those are really good memories.”

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