Hodge: Doesn’t feel like Christmas until the snow falls

…my fondest childhood memories rotate around time spent trudging around in winter boots, gloves and a toque.

Bring on the snow.

For as long as I can recall, I’ve impatiently awaited (with the wide-eyed enthusiasm of a child) the first snowfall of the year.

Admittedly, for one who does not own skis, snowshoes, a ski-doo or even ice fishing gear, it’s odd to have such enthusiasm for the white fluffy stuff.

I suppose that’s because many of my fondest childhood memories rotate around time spent trudging around in winter boots, gloves and a toque.

When not playing rink rat as a minor hockey player or referee, I lived in the old Memorial Arena as stick boy and then trainer for the Kelowna Buckaroos junior A hockey team.

When not freezing my feet in the arena I was freezing them either playing road hockey or on a barely scraped ice surface somewhere on Okanagan Lake.

I often flash back to when my family rented Maude Roxby’s house on Abbott Street, which for a young lad was a dream-like setting.

The large old home seemed like a castle with tucked away storage areas and a secret closet.

In the winter, I was simply the same hop step and few jumps away from my own small but somewhat protected skating rink tucked into the shoreline.

Neighbour kids such as Jim and Bobby Bowers, Ken Franz and others would spend every moment possible chasing pucks and each other around on the bumpy nature-glazed rink.

When the game was done, I would trundle my way back through the snow, still wearing my skates, to the house only to be lovingly greeted at the door by mom with hot chocolate in hand and a warm fire glowing in the living room.

In later years after moving homes, my hockey heroics (or so I imagined) were relocated to the snow covered asphalt of Water Avenue where the likes of Rob Gable, Ken Carter, Rick Bain, Dan Thiessen, Rod Cooney, Doug Bromley, Rich Rumley, Rob Jeffries, and older kids such as Daryl Wilkinson and Phil Campbell would religiously gather and chase a tennis ball or red plastic road hockey puck around like a pack of coyotes after a rabbit.

We ran amuck and emulated our NHL heroes from early morning until late in the evening before our parents leaned out the doors and heralded our return.

Adults wisely did not park cars on the street, not only to accommodate our endless enthusiasm but also to avoid dents and scratches from errant sticks, bad passes or off-target slap shots.

A lack of finances dictated I never saw a ski hill except for tobogganing, however, my siblings and I never lacked for plenty of other winter fun in the snow.

We create impressive snow forts for epic snow ball battles, and the always popular construction of snowmen or ice sculptures.

Our fun was only restricted by a lack of imagination or daylight. (More often than not the daylight ran out long before the imagination.)

Another reason for my adulation towards snow is the wondrous beauty it brings to the outdoors during the often dull, damp grey days of winter.

I far prefer to see a white, pristine, blanket of snow cover the landscape and enhancing the trees, shrubs and lawns outside my window.

I far prefer to see glittering sidewalks and roads than mud puddles and dirt. Heck, even garbage cans and empty garden plots look nicer with a dust of snow.

And of course, snow is an imperative and joyful precursor to a truly festive Christmas season. It’s not officially the Christmas season until snow hits the ground at least once.

However, the very best part of snow is not being in it.

There is something incredibly satisfying about being tucked into a warm, cozy house with a warm hot chocolate and simply watching the snow slowly undulate its way to earth.

Admittedly, when the work day is done I tend to quickly hide in my humble home tucking myself warmly inside with Tez and our five cats as soon as possible.

But come late November, the temptations to once again step out into the real world increases with the plethora of holiday season invitations and/or events.

Last week provided a fabulous kick-off to the season with the always popular Christmas Bazaar at the Saint Pious Church.

Tez and I had a wonderful time scooping up all kinds of handicrafts for gifts, chatting with the great group of organizers, and warming up with coffee and Christmas goodies.

That fun was followed up during the week by ringing the Salvation Army bells for a half hour at Walmart.

I have been lucky enough to be able to volunteer a number of times over the years to ring the bell at donation tubs for the wonderful Sally Ann folks and absolutely nothing kick-starts a Christmas season better.

The morning was made even more enjoyable by the joyful presence of Chordial Invitation, an a cappela barbershop style singing group who ventured out into the frosty air and belted out about a dozen rollicking Christmas Carols. What a tremendous bunch of fellows they are.

I have a plethora of great events on my calendar over the next month, which I will share soon.

But make sure and mark down now Dec.11, 12, 13 for the Willow Park Church’s wonderful Living Nativity, one event that Tez and I make an annual ‘must-see’ no matter the cold.

It is always a fun, moving, and motivating event for the whole family, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

To learn more about it, check out the website willowparkchurch.com/living-nativity.

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