12 Days of Christmas at Heritage Park

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? No, I’m not dead. I wasn’t abducted by aliens. I wasn’t held hostage. I took a bit of a break. I had to.

In mid-September, I suffered a bit of a breakdown. Too much stress that I’d allowed to work into my life caught up with me and brought the Geoff Sowrey Machine to a grinding halt. Thankfully, that didn’t last too long, and was able to get back up and running not long afterwards. So why did I take such a long break before writing again?

Well, one thing that bucket o’ stress did was really hamper my ability to write and edit properly. I was afraid that such a thing was happening, but didn’t really think it was harming me. Sadly, after one particular entry about my cousin Pam’s wedding, it became all-too-clear that my ability to write was in jeopardy. I unintentionally insulted my family — a grievous error for which I am deeply regretful. That brought an end to my writing, at least until I felt competant enough to write again.

Which brings me to this weekend… (relax, events of weeks, er, months past will be brought to the web as soon as I can edit them all together)

The weekend couldn’t have started soon enough for me — last week was almost nothing except planning, strategy, writing, and a lot of stress (long story, which I’m not really going to get into, suffice to say that the issues were resolved). Friday night was nice: a couple of beers starting at 16:30 (we celebrated a “No-one Got Fired” day), followed by a brief stop to wish my friend Angie a happy birthday. Then it was off home to wash off the smell of “Fuel” (where the start of Angie’s party was) and wait for Alex to come home.

We woke up earlier on Saturday than we had in previous weeks, and immediately got to the task of the morning: breakfast. But we opted for breakfast at Nellie’s In The Loop; one of the Nellie’s restaurants, based in Marda Loop. We had thought of going to the Belvedere Diner (across the road), but the lineups pretty much settled that deal. Food in our bellies, we aimed for stop #2: Chinook Centre.

As you already know, it’s December. It’s Christmas season. So not only were we looking for presents for others (I’m not quite done yet), we were looking for outfits for the various Christmas parties that are coming up, most notably the MRT party next Saturday. Alex needed a dress. For those of you who’ve never shopped for a dress before, you’d be surprised how hard it is to not only find one that looks good, but doesn’t scratch your skin (Alex found one that seemed to be made ENTIRELY of sparkles), but also comes in your size. Despite a mall-wide search, we ended up finding one in Sears, of all places. I settled for a new dress shirt and a tie, in colours that would compliment Alex’s navy-blue and silver outfit.

Although December, Chinook wasn’t wall-to-wall people when we arrived. However, as we began to head towards the Sears (where we ultimatlely found the dress), we noticed that the population was growing exponentially. Having completed our transactions in Sears, we headed towards the car, and abandoned the mall with all due haste.

Destination? Heritage Park, for their 12 Days of Christmas weekend. (It’s actually several weekends.) Basically, it’s the same as the park usually, except the amusement park is closed, the trains aren’t running, and the theme around most of the buildings is decidedly Christmas. It’s quite nice, actually, and with a bit of planning, could be something that Alex and I make a tradition. Especially when we have kids.

Yes, we talk extensively about having kids. Prepare for it, folks.

We found some particularly nice things in one store, especially drink mixes (powders for hot apple and cranberry ciders, hot chocolates of various varieties), candies, and fudge (we’re fudge-o-holics). In an adjoining building, we found a group of calligraphers, who whipped off pretty much anything you needed or wanted. That’s where we ran into Rebecca’s mom (who travels in the calligraphy circles in Calgary).

The Wainwright Hotel was open, but the forecast for food was a little bleak. Hot dogs in one room, and an apparent lineup for the other. So we aborted and looked elsewhere, such as the bakery (basically, nothing but cookies), the Club Cafe (didn’t really hit us), and Gunn’s Dairy Farm (closed by the time we got there). The roundhouse was also open, though didn’t have any food — instead, had a wide range of gift ideas. Most were arranged in international themes, so one would see Christmas from various parts of the world, with little descriptions about that area.

One thing that stood out for me was the description of the true meaning of the “Twelve Days of Christmas”. Most people think this is about one person giving presents to another. In reality, it was a song created to help teach the core of Catholicism to children during a period in English history when being a Catholic was considered bad. Like, lock you away for a very long time kind of bad. The practice went on from 1558 to 1829, when Catholics were finally emancipated. Here’s how the numbers actually break down (text borrowed from Appleseeds.org, ‘cuz I’m too damn lazy to type it all out):

  • 1st Day: The partridge in a pear tree is Christ Jesus upon the Cross. In the song, Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge because she would feign injury to decoy a predator away from her nestlings. She was even willing to die for them. The tree is the symbol of the fall of the human race through the sin of Adam and Eve. It is also the symbol of its redemption by Jesus Christ on the tree of the Cross.
  • 2nd Day:The “two turtle doves” refers to the Old and New Testaments.
  • 3rd Day:The “three French hens” stand for faith, hope and love — the three gifts of the Spirit that abide (1 Corinthians 13).
  • 4th Day:The “four calling birds” refers to the four evangelists who wrote the Gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke and John — which sing the song of salvation through Jesus Christ.
  • 5th Day:The “five golden rings” represents the first five books of the Bible, also called the Jewish Torah: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
  • 6th Day:The “six geese a-laying” is the six days of creation.
  • 7th Day:The “seven swans a-swimming” refers to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.
  • 8th Day:The “eight maids a milking ” reminded children of the eight beatitudes listed in the Sermon on the Mount.
  • 9th Day:The “nine ladies dancing” were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.
  • 10th Day:The “ten lords a-leaping” represents the Ten Commandments
  • 11th Day:The “eleven pipers piping” refers to the eleven faithful apostles.
  • 12th Day:The ï ¿ ½twelve drummers drumming” were the twelve points of belief expressed in the Apostlesï ¿ ½ Creed: belief in God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, that Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, made man, crucified, died and arose on the third day, that he sits at the right hand of the father and will come again, the resurrection of the dead and life everlasting.

Learn something new every day, eh?

Afterwards, we headed out in search of food. Alex was starting to gnaw on my arm, and I felt it important to keep my limbs intact. As we headed back to the Hotel, we could hear the carolers on the stage belting out song after song. But one of them caught our attention. They were singing “Linus and Lucy”, the single-most recognizable tune from “A Charlie Brown Christmas”.

Yes, singing.

As there are no words to the song, they were singing “do do do do do do do”, broken into women’s and men’s parts. There’s a bit after the first two stanzas where all of them sang “DA DA DA DA!” and followed the sound of the piano. Alex and I about fell over laughing, it sounded so ridiculous.

All we got at the Hotel was a warm dog (not quite hot), two bags of chips, and a couple of drinks. Unsatisfied, we tried for gingerbread cookies at the bakery. You could have used them to armour-plate a tank. The sheer horrors of food having set it, and our interest waning, we headed off in search of the car, and new shopping experiences … at South Centre Mall.

South Centre was far less busy than Chinook had been, though we didn’t make any huge scores (although Alex did find a shawl-like thing (it’s hard to describe, needless to say) for her outfit next Saturday. Following the mall, we headed over to the adjacent Safeway for dinner fixin’s and for eggs, to make better gingerbread than the armour plating we’d had earlier.

Dinner eaten and gingerbread dough cooling, we went to return one movie (“Bad Santa”) and rent a new one (“Monster”). This became partial entertainment. It’s been snowing this weekend, and the temperature on Saturday was enough to turn the Edmonton Trail hill into a bit of an ice rink. And that seems to attract every idiot in town to prove that you can, in fact, get up an icy hill merely by putting your foot to the floor and smoking your tires beyond repair. Morons.

We were a little late arriving at church the next morning, owing to the aforementioned cold and snow. (The roads were a little treacherous, and it really doesn’t help matters when the Calgary Police Service decides to pull someone on Memorial over right at a curve in the road. They caused more accidents than they were trying to stop.)

Why did we go to church? Alex wanted to, for one, but also because I’ve never seen a Christmas service before. It’s something new for me, and it’s a part of Alex’s life. It’s fun to share experiences, don’t you think? Following church, we headed to Market Mall for lunch and, yes, more shopping. (We stopped along the way to drop off a small batch of gingerbread cookies to the X-Ray staff in Emergency at the Foot.)

A bag of clothes (I needed new shirts) and two digesting ice cream cones (from the Marble Slab Creamery) later, we returned to my place via Safeway to make dinner: pizza. Something quick. We were heading out to the Knox Choir Festival at Knox United downtown, and were meeting up with Rebecca at the Tim Horton’s a block away. Which was good, because it was about -20 tonight. Brrr.

The three of us arrived at the church about 15 minutes before the show started. It was packed, wall-to-wall, including the balconies. We barely managed to find seats in the upper back. The show was recorded by CBC radio for rebroadcast in the Calgary area. It was interesting to watch the various choirs come in and play carols I’d never even heard of before. Two particular choirs were the Korean Presbyterian Choir (which sang traditional English carols in Korean, and sounded amazing) and the Chinook Show Choir, a collection of older women who sang just beautifully. We, as the audience, sang in between the choirs with the Knox Choir and a really loud organ.

Dad would have loved it.

Oh, and one of those choirs decided to do “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. Yep, how often do you hear people singing “Linus and Lucy” twice in one weekend? I don’t think I’m ever gonna get it out of my head.

Christmas is definitely here. This is going to be a great Christmas season.

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