Away from it all

The weekend after Remembrance Day, a TV reporter cheerfully exclaimed “It’s only 40 days until Christmas and I haven’t even started my Christmas shopping!”

Oh my, I thought. When is it supposed to start?

When a poll last year asked what people like least about Christmas and the holidays, fully one-third of Americans cited the commercialization of the season. Twenty-two percent said they dislike the heavy expenses associated with the holidays, and for 10 percent the holiday shopping and crowds were the part they dreaded. 

Many Christian Courier readers would agree that Christmas has become a stressful few weeks instead of what it is supposed to be – a celebration of the birth of Jesus, a time of joy and family get-togethers. Do you ever wish we could bring back a time when Christmas was all about simple celebrations, centred around family and church?

It seems easier said than done, and all too easy to get caught up in the commercial trap that Christmas has become. But there are ways to have a more old-fashioned family Christmas that will help bring back joy. It means being willing to spend time making gifts rather than buying them, and spending time with family rather than providing a gift overload.

Rural haven

My nephew and his wife are planning on having an old-fashioned Christmas with us this year. My nieces and nephew always spent a few weeks each summer at our cottage when they were growing up. The kids were used to city life, so being in a cottage with no television and no friends was quite a change for them. Interestingly, now that the kids are adults and live and work in the city, they dislike the Toronto traffic and find the cottage environment peaceful and relaxing.

My nephew Adam and his wife Stephanie had a week off at Thanksgiving and spent it at our cottage. What amazed me was that they left all the modern gadgets at home – no laptops, videos or smart phones. The internet doesn’t work there. The small lake is very quiet during the off-season; cottagers are gone. They hiked. They canoed. They walked. They made home-cooked meals. They slept in late. And they took numerous photos of their truly Thanksgiving week.

Now they’re planning to come back for Christmas, when they hope to go on a horse-pulled sleigh ride and pick out a tree at a Christmas tree farm. Maybe they’ll even come to church on Christmas Day with us.

Moon-lit skies

A couple I know own a tiny island in a lake with a one-room cabin built in the 1950s. It has no hydro, no plumbing, no generator. The only amenities are a propane range and a barbecue. They love it as it is. This year the woman decided to list it on a bed and breakfast website just to see what would happen. Her husband laughed, saying “Nobody wants to use an outhouse. Nobody wants to boil lake water to wash dishes.”

The first guests came from New York City for three days and three nights. They were enchanted by the candlelight, loved to see the night skies and stars. They appreciated the quiet, the natural surroundings and the absence of modern intrusions. They canoed, fished and basked in three days of sunshine.

The next guests booked a week. It drizzled, rained or poured for five of the seven days. My friend kept expecting a phone call begging to come and pick them up. But the only call was a request to stay an additional night, and please bring more drinking water. When at last they headed home to Toronto, the guests were invigorated and enthused by the experience.

“It’s paradise,” they said.

She said the people who come to their island aren’t looking just to be off-the-grid. They want privacy and a gentle adventure and moon-lit skies.

Ah, getting away from it all. I love it where it’s quiet and peaceful. Who needs to shop and shop?

This Christmas season may you unwrap the greatest of all presents – the quiet presence of God’s son in your life!


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