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The Joyful Holiday Season

A couple of years ago I had the absolute pleasure of publishing My Story, My Song, a book about the first twenty years of my life. I wrote about growing up in the heart of Ontario farmlands in this huge country we now call Canada. I told about my nine brothers and my three sisters, my mother and father and all of us at one time or another enjoying the green fields and yellow corn, the apple trees and the hilly tree, the cows and the pigs and the chickens and the geese and also about some of the adventures we shared in that idyllic place.

Today I want to wish my readers a wonderful holiday season, whatever your ways of celebrating it might be. Do you mention Sinterklaas, Black Peter, Father Christmas, St. Nicholas, Fjøsnissen, Santa Claus, or other gift-giving magical people at this time of year? Do you bake delicious cakes and bundts? Do you sing with joy and tell holiday stories? It doesn’t matter. Celebrate how you like, who you like and eat what you like. Just celebrate.

Here is an excerpt from My Story, My Song to get you in the mood.

I had new jammies. Mom finished them just in time for Christmas Eve. They were pink with little white bunnies all over them. I held the pants up to my cheek. Ooh, so soft. Mom pulled my dress up over my head but left my undershirt on. It had a little white bow on the front.

She buttoned the pajama top all the way down my front and helped me pull on the bottoms. “Run to the bathroom,” she said and patted my bum to hurry me up. When I came back she had Glen’s diaper all pinned and was pulling up his rubber pants. He had new jammies, too, but not as cute as mine. His were kind of brown with cowboys and horses on them. They swung their ropes over their heads. Not nearly as nice as my bunnies.

The big boys dressed in their own room that had two huge beds and two huge dressers for their clothes. They even had a closet to walk into and hang their Sunday clothes up. Sometimes they used it for playing cowboys and Indians. With a chair on the floor blocking the door, it could be a jail. Doug was always putting the younger ones in there.

“Bring your stockings down now,” Mom called from the kitchen. She had Glen with her. I didn’t know how she could carry him on her hip but she did, even as big as he was. I ran downstairs and the older boys soon followed. We all had our Christmas stockings. Mine matched my jammies. On the kitchen table Daddy had a black wire hanger and some clothespins. He fastened the older boys’ socks to the hanger with them.

Doug joked that he had the biggest one. He was right. It was a grey wool barn sock with two red stripes and a red toe. The other boys had their Sunday socks. Glen and I had the new Christmas stockings Mom had made to match our jammies. We didn’t need clothespins. She had made a tie to pull tight at the top and we watched Daddy loop them to the hanger.

Finally, all were fastened. Daddy hung the hanger on the small nail on the cellar door. The stockings were all ready for Santa Claus.

“Where’s Daddy’s stocking?” Wayne wanted to know.

Mom and Daddy looked at each other. “I forgot,” Daddy said. “Just a minute.” He rushed into the bedroom just off the kitchen and came back with a huge grey barn sock, with red stripes just like Doug’s. He took another clothespin and pinned it in the middle of the others. Mom said she didn’t want to ask Santa for too much for our house so she would not hang her stocking. Doug had a smirk on his face as if he knew something secret. She gave him a cross look. She sent us all upstairs to snuggle into bed. She said she’d be up in a minute or two.

It was Christmas Eve so both Mom and Daddy came up to tuck us into bed. Glen settled down with his bottle in the crib in my room and I snuggled into my big bed but I had no thoughts of sleep. “Where will Santa park his sleigh, Mom?” We didn’t have a fireplace, just a big grey stove in the living room and a huge one in the kitchen. I had looked them both over very carefully. Santa would land in the fire if he tried to come down through the stove pipes. And he was too fat and jolly to make it anyway.

“He’s magic. And he only comes to children who are asleep, so close your eyes and see if you can be first to get to sleep.” She kissed me and patted my hair and I tried to keep my eyes closed. I didn’t know how I’d sleep but I could keep my eyes closed and pretend I was sleeping. That would have to do. Daddy came in and patted my head. Soon all I could hear was Glen sucking on his bottle. I wondered if he would drop it on the floor like he usually did.


“It’s Christmas! It’s Christmas!” Ross was shouting. “Wake up, everybody. Time to check our stockings.” Glen started to cry and knocked the baby bottle out on the linoleum floor. From My Story, My Song by Elaine Cougler.


Another Christmas memory is my coming up with “Doin’ the Christmas Thing”. I was happily baking the Christmas cake for my family, using my Grandmother’s recipe, and thinking what a great time this would be with our two kids, their significant others, and our extended family. Suddenly I started to sing. “Oh, I’m doin’ the Christmas thing, doin’ the wonderful Christmas thing.” The tune just popped into my head right along with the words. I dropped the mixing spoon and ran to the piano, grabbed some staff paper and a pencil and jotted down the notes and words I had so far. I ran back to the kitchen, did some more mixing and got the cake into the pans. Back to the piano I ran and wrote out the next words I had. Then back to the kitchen–the oven was ready–and I popped the pans into the oven.

The rest of that day I kept thinking up verses and making changes until I was satisfied. I even remembered not to burn the cake! The next day I was singing at the Christmas meeting of the UCW at church. I told the ladies the story and sang my new song unaccompanied because I didn’t have the accompaniment finished yet. They were delighted and I was as happy as I had ever been.

Here’s the printed music. Feel free to print it out and sing it yourself.

This year, think back to your own holiday memories and maybe jot some of them down. What were the songs you sang? Were candles a big part of the fun? How about special people? Are some of them living only in your memories now? Why not bring them to life with tales of fun as kids or even as adults?

We need our memories and our children and grandchildren need them, too. If you, like me, are a word person, take the chance to write your memories. After Christmas this year I am going to start to record some of the many songs I’ve written over the years. I do this to leave parts of myself for those I love. It’s going to be quite a bit of work practising the singing, getting my voice back in shape, deciding on the exact harmonies on the songs I’ve kind of changed and doing the actual recordings in my friend Jack’s studio.

Do you have a special gift you can give to your friend, your offspring, or–if you’re braver than I–to the world? Give some joy this holiday season. Perhaps it will last several lifetimes.

Happy Holidays to You and Yours!series of winter photos

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