Photo: Joey Going

Christmas is filled with traditions, each unique to the family celebrating. One of my favourite traditions, created for my sister and me by our parents, is receiving a special ornament to hang on the tree each year. Over the years the ornaments have ranged from cartoon-themed, whimsical, and cultural. Each is special to me in its own way, but I do have a favourite, and often it surprises people to find out which one that is.

My favorite? The A&W bear on a sled. It’s not the flashiest, it’s a bit goofy, and it definitely wasn’t the most expensive. But, it’s my favourite and not one year has gone by without him hanging on my tree.

You’re probably guessing that there is a story here. And you’re right. My Dad has told me many times about how this particular year had been a tough one financially for him and my Mom. They always wanted to give us the very best and to make the holidays special for us, but this year was proving difficult. Even an ornament seemed like an extra expense that just couldn’t be incurred. That was the year that while on the road driving truck, my Dad had popped into A&W for supper and saw the bear ornaments. He bought two. He remembers being a bit embarrassed that these were the ornaments we would receive that year.

You can ask me what I got as a gift that year . . . I wouldn’t be able to tell you. What about any of the gifts I received in the years following? I don’t really remember them either. What I do remember about the holidays is that they were filled with love and spending time with family.

Too often we get so caught up in the busy-ness of the season and focus too much of our energy on the materialistic aspects of Christmas. My A&W bear ornament symbolizes all of the best parts of the season for me. Every year, when I bring it out, it’s a reminder that Christmas isn’t about gifts. It reminds me to slow down and remember that the important things aren’t things. It reminds me that simply doing my best for my children will be enough, as long as I fill their lives with love. And it reminds me to create lasting memories through experiences, not gifts.

My advice for the holidays? Keep it simple and focus your attention on the things that truly matter. Because years from now no one will remember what you got them for Christmas, but they will remember how Christmas made them feel.

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