Monday, 22 December 2008
Canadian Christmas traditions (part one?)
Yesterday, elder daughter and I set off into the snowfall smothering Ottawa. I knew we were in trouble when the CBC website described the snowfall for our area as "heavy". Quick translation: "flurries" = "light snowfall"; "light snowfall" = "heavy snowfall"; "heavy snowfall" = "no sidewalks to speak of and cars that resent your crossing the street because they're scared to stop". So elder daughter and I trudged through the ankle-twisting snow, trying to hit sidewalks where many pedestrians had been before us to wear a path down. Tricky on a Sunday, but more likely given the bus strike that has been going on for nearly two weeks and is unlikely to end anytime soon. (I'm planning to blog on this, but somehow none of my sentiments fit in with the Christmas spirit...)
We figured about fifty minutes to make it to the National Arts Centre, which is a little over three kilometres (2 miles for you Yanks), and we were about right, even with the wind whipping white into our faces. We joined the Resident Fan Boy and younger daughter, who had spent the morning at church and had lunched downtown. I took off my boots to relieve my stressed toes and chafed shins and watched my daughters watch the show for which we'd made the pilgrimage.
For the past five years or so, the Resident Fan Boy and I have been taking in Stuart McLean's Vinyl Café Christmas Concert. The Vinyl Café has been playing on CBC Radio for the past fourteen years; the Resident Fan Boy listens to it every Sunday as he prepares lunch. Stuart McLean is kind of like Garrison Keillor of The Prairie Home Companion, but not quite. His radio show showcases a bit of music (predominantly Canadian artists, particularly new jazzy, bluesy, country, or folksy ones). Somewhere in there he started telling the stories of Dave, the proprietor of The Vinyl Café, which is of course a vintage record store, and his wife Morley. The stories took off and are now the eagerly-awaited focus of the programme. The show, concerts and stories go year-round, but the Christmas stories have become a Canadian custom, particularly an early one entitled Dave Cooks the Turkey which now has legendary status. My personal favourite amongst the Dave-and-Morley Christmas stories is Polly Anderson's Christmas Party, and my favourite non-Christmas story is called The Cat in the Car which has actually physically hurt me; I was laughing that hard.
Anyway, this is the first Christmas we've taken the girls along, and I watched for their reactions nervously. Those tickets were expensive. Younger daughter grooved to the music; Christmas carols and songs expertly played by top-notch musicians. Also, a school-mate was invited to come on stage and distribute give-aways; she caught a glimpse of younger daughter in the loge and waved. Then I watched as elder daughter giggled helplessly to the three stories, which included Christmas at the Turlingtons, the first story we heard live five years ago, and I knew we were going to be okay. There was now simply the matter of trying to get home...
The Vinyl Café can be heard on a selection of public radio stations in the States, and on BBC7 in Britain, but I think you can hear most of the stories I've mentioned for free here.