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Christmas can be what you make it.  You can celebrate the birth of Jesus and attend midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, or you can think of Christmastime as a
celebration of the Winter Solstice.  It’s a time when many folks, Christian and not banish the fewer hours of daylight by putting up festive lights that sparkle on a black winter’s night.  In the Northern hemisphere, Winter Solstice is Dec. 21, at 5:11 pm.

Deborah Byrd, founder of EarthSky – tells us all about Winter solstice in scientific terms and her website is a great place to learn about the shortest day of the year in the Northern hemisphere and the longest day of the year in the Southern hemisphere.

Regardless of your beliefs, the Solstice is an occasion to celebrate the ‘return of the light’ with family and friends.  It’s a time when people like to get together to ‘eat, drink, and be merry.’  Over the years, our family has customarily celebrated the way Quebecers do, by going to Midnight Mass and returning to the household for a grand post-midnight-mass meal, called Reveillon. It didn’t take long for the ‘midnight mass’ ritual to fall away as our family became a blend of Antipodean and Canadian.  We moved away from the more traditional and Catholic way of celebrating and leaned more towards the Yule celebrations, focusing more on the notion of renewal and reflection…the opportunity to take time out to spend quality time with the people you most care for and with whom you don’t often have the time to connect.

Quebec Christmasses are usually snowy and white, and the Reveillon is a wonderful way to ring in Christmas Day.  In BC, the weather can be just about anything…this Christmas, they are predicting a 60 – 70% chance of rain on Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day in Vancouver could be sunny with a few scattered showers.  That’s the reality of living on the Pacific Ocean in the wintertime!  In NZ, Christmas is usually warm and sunny, and it’s likely a good day for the beach, with surfboards on the roof rack rather than Xmas trees.
Wherever you live, and whatever way you celebrate, gift giving is usually customary.  This can be a really stressful time for people who don’t have money and who feel pressured to buy buy buy because of the dictates of the media.

I like to think of Christmas these days as ‘gift making’, and sharing any talents you might have.  Last year I gave people ‘photographs’, and this year will be a similar event, with a bit of ‘clay work’ added in, and home made treats. Spending huge amounts of money on people is losing its popularity and I’m hoping that the growing trend will be for folks to take time out to share a meal with loved ones and to include in their plans, those who are less fortunate.

In “Food & Recipes”, I include the ‘tourtiere’ (meat pie) recipe my mother used to make for Reveillon when we lived in Quebec.  ENJOY!