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Happy Christmas in the country

Heaps of snow in the Peace region of Alberta make it easy to visualize a “white Christmas” as I write this. If I were to ask you about the top 10 things that make a great Christmas celebration for you, what would you answer?

Most families that I work with want to maintain family harmony, or get back on track again as “a happy family.” Dr. Nikki Gerrard’s research of farm families found that one of the ways that families keep resilient or strong is through celebration.

Recently I met a family who decided it was high time to reinstitute monthly Sunday dinners at the home farm. This was a chance for the farmers and non-farmers to keep connected as a family and have a real thread of conversation to keep “in the loop” about farm activities. Everyone is proud of their multi-generation farm, and they want the legacy of happy farm memories to continue.

Christmas for you, may be about making memories. Sometimes our expectations are not met, and yet we can still be content and grateful for the celebration that actually transpired.

Last Christmas in New Zealand, we were embraced by a farm family who gave us stockings filled with New Zealand specialties, a church service, and a delicious meal.

The delightful part for the kids was seeing Gramps shoot a rabbit and skin it. This event was not on my list of “this has to happen to be a great Christmas memory.”

Sometimes we just have to let go, and live in the present moment. If you don’t have huge expectations of perfection, you might be surprised at the simple pleasures of celebrating together that bring you joy.

Richness in relationship is very important to me. That’s why I just took down last year’s Christmas photos that were encroaching on the wall space of a favourite oil painting. Folks come into my home and review the faces on the wall to identify themselves, or a connection to a familiar visage.

We are all longing for connection.

Gerrard’s research also showed that the more resilient farm folks stayed connected to their community and each other. Sadly, there are fewer “friendly” farmers, according to some interviews I have done recently with farm managers challenged to expand their land base. The older, rural etiquette of treating neighbours with kindness and respect is being eroded. Folks who rent land for two decades are not necessarily the ones given first right of refusal to purchase the soil that they have nurtured for many harvests. Some neighbours don’t have time to chat anymore.

What kinds of connections are you longing for this month?

I smile inwardly when folks ask, “Are you ready for Christmas?” as if it is a badge of some weird martyrdom-type honour to say, “I will never get it all done!” Happy people really don’t care what the house looks like, and whether the cookies are off Martha Stewart’s recipe collection. Families are longing to linger at the table of hospitality and friendship. Christmas will come “ready or not!”

Sadly in our neighbourhood, lifelong friends have moved west, north to the city, and some have stopped calling for a visit. Maybe it is time to be intentional about reconnecting to family and friends. A phone call or text is so easy, yet so many people don’t decide to reach out and communicate the invitation to share life and make new memories.

Tips to celebrate connection this Christmas:

1. Invite a foreign student or single person from your community to share a meal, coffee or Christmas at your home.

2. Ask your local Christmas Cheer Board what day it needs you to help wrap gifts, and donate practical gifts, especially for men. Help out at the food bank. We hope to help serve at the Christmas Day community dinner that serves folks who normally would be celebrating solo.

3. Bake cookies with your grandchildren and box them in the freezer for the parents as a surprise.

4. Go through the winter hat and mitts collection and see what you can recycle to the local thrift store.

5. Call a young mother (daughter-in-law) with your offer to spend three hours watching her children while she attends to some needed self-care. Blow out someone’s lane secretly!

6. Ask a widow/er if their family is coming home for Christmas. If she or he is slow to answer make sure you pick them up to spend time at your home.

7. Visit www.buynothing christmas.org and be thankful for all the material gifts you enjoy as a very rich Canadian. Write a note of appreciation to each of your children for the delight they bring to your life, and why they are special to you. If the kids are causing you grief, write that child a letter of encouragement with your vision for their future.

8. Take out lots of great home-decorating magazines from your library like Real Simple and repurpose your pine cones, candles, and rosehips growing in the ditch. Have some fun playing with natural objects and finding treasures buried in your home. The mall parking lot is way too crowded at this time of year. Avoid the hassle of crowds, and enjoy “putzing” with what you already have.

9. Call your best friend who lives too far away and have tea with her while you both enjoy a chat on the phone or the delight of www.skype.com.

10. Celebrate fun things with your farm family. Cut the talk about business, and move the heavy decisions or family business meeting to the 28th of December. Decide to just be a family and let go of the business conversations for the moment. You are creating a legacy of good memories. The snow forts, pond skating, the sleigh rides, the winter marshmallow roasts, the log stacking… whatever your family decides to do just for fun’s sake. Do it! †

About the author

Contributor

Elaine Froese is a certified farm family coach and farm partner. Seek her out at www. elainefroese.com or call 1-866-848-8311. Buy her books for your mom. Share your stories of how these phrases have impacted you. Elaine wants to hear from you on Facebook at “farm family coach” or Twitter @elainefroese.

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