Like with many people, my love of Christmas has had its ups and downs. For a big chunk of my adult life I got caught up in the frenzy to buy things, be at the right parties, and place nice with my fellow man (no matter how miserable I or they were being!).
Then I moved to Ireland. It was here that my love of Christmas was rekindled. In Ireland, I discovered a Christmas that was about family, friends, and community. Oh – and a lot of tea and chocolate. And beer.
But it was chocolate, tea, and beer shared with people that you really cared about. Stores actually closed down for days – DAYS! – at end, forcing everyone to stay at home and socialize. Or go to your neighbour’s and socialize. Meals were cooked and consumed at great leisure. Neighbours brought you wild holly as gifts. People went to holiday services or helped out the needy. Not too many people are left alone in Ireland at Christmas.
Upon returning home to Canada after three festive Irish Chirstmases abroad, this spark of community returned with me. My husband and I don’t buy gifts for each anymore, instead, we spurge on an annual evening drinking crazy expensive cocktails with friends in the posh bar of a local hotel. We have holiday shindigs and open houses for our neighbours, secret Santa dinners with old friends, and make Christmas day with my folks into a lazy Christmas extended long weekend.
So when I was invited to Longview to help out with their ‘Light Up Longview’ Holiday event, I was there before you could say snowball.
For those who aren’t familiar with the community, Longview is a small town south of Calgary with a population of about 350. They are home to one Mr. Ian Tyson, the famous Longview beef jerky, and is one of our star ACE Communities.
‘Light Up Longview’ is one of the town’s ACE projects aimed at raising awareness and funds for their ACE efforts. It was inspired by the town’s purchase of new lampposts as part of their plan to beautify their main street. With the holidays soon approaching, the ACE Communities committee decided to start a campaign to raise funds to purchase holiday lights/decorations for the lampposts as well as create a memorial tree.
This was seen as a way to have a quick win for the town, raise awareness of ACE, and bring people together.
So this past Sunday, Longview held their annual Christmas party in conjunction with the debut of their new outdoor lights. Made up almost entirely by volunteers, the Longview crew organized a visit by Santa (and made sure every child in town had a gift), hosted a horse-drawn sled ride, cooked a homemade turkey dinner for the whole town, and raised nearly $6000 for their lights fund. $900 of that came from a youth group who held a bottle drive earlier as their way of helping to buy decorations for the town.
In a town of 350, 225 people came out that night to celebrate the holidays with their community.
Do you think that the Grinch’s heart grew 10 times larger that day? Because, in the end, it is the people in your life that will make or break your Christmas. Let’s use this day as it was meant and celebrate our communities.
To see more pictures from the ‘Light up Longview’ event: http://acecommunities.ca/gallery/