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I write this post knowing that it will go quickly into controversial territory. Many people advocate that Christmas is strictly a religious holiday celebrating the birth of Christ while there are others that believe Christ should be taken out of Christmas (an interesting read http://www.buzzbishop.com/blog/2011/11/17/take-the-christ-out-of-christmas/). I’m not going to argue one side or the other as it is very much a personal choice. I will simply say that for us Christmas is a time to celebrate family and friends and, in combination with the winter solstice, winter and the lengthening of the days. 

The Christmas season is here and Matt finally gets it this year – Santa Claus, the reindeer and Christmas trees. He loves the Christmas stories and the lights and decorations that are everywhere. We want to get out and enjoy the festivities with him – there’s so much to do that it’s hard to choose. There are festivals, fairs, light displays, plays, skating, sledding, and the list goes on. But as time is limited, and choose we must.

For the most part, we’ve been choosing activities which are outside, smaller in scale and relatively inexpensive. We love the outdoors and firmly believe that getting outside everyday is great for ourselves and our child. If there are going to horses they get specials consideration when planning – “horsies” are a favourite; any other animals are a bonus. Finally, since we want to enjoy it to the fullest, we have to make sure his schedule isn’t disrupted too much. We’re lucky in some ways that he is fairly flexible but on the other hand we can no longer rely on him taking his nap in the car. Generally we plan things for the morning and/or late afternoon, leaving the middle of the day for his nap – it just makes for a happier boy and therefore happier parents.

This weekend we chose two festivals that had it all. They were primarily outside, had horses, could be attended before/after naptime, Santa would be in attendance and wouldn’t be too crazy busy. Of course, since we planned our weekend with naps intact, in his predictably unpredictable ways, Matt put this planning to side by waking up almost 3 hours later than normal both days thus changing/negating nap time (of course this morning he was up by 6:30am as per his usual). Oh well.

On Saturday, we went to Banff for their Christmas in the Rockies and Santa Claus Parade of Lights for the second year in the row. It’s a relatively small festival and we love seeing Banff all lit up for the holidays. Though we skipped many of the indoor activities, we had a lot of fun walking around the town enjoying the crisp mountain air. It seemed like the whole town was out on the streets, locals and tourists mixed and mingled and the kids all played in the street while waiting for the parade to start. Music, floats and big trucks – Matt loved them all. He laughed to see Santa’s sleigh being towed by a monster tow truck (with the Grinch) and the firetruck… he’s a two-year old boy, need I say more. I have to say that after years in Toronto, where you had get your place hours before the start of the parade, it was great to be able to take a spot at the curb as the police car leading the parade came into view. The day ended with a great dinner at St. James Gate Irish pub in Banff (yes, kids are allowed – the exception being in the evening on St. Patrick’s Day). Half way home, we encountered the winter storm that pummelled Calgary with upwards to 35cm of snow in less than 24 hours, but got home safely after a slow drive.

Sunday saw us travelling the snowstorm covered roads down to Bragg Creek for Spirit of Christmas. The sky cleared as we arrived and Matt had so much fun tromping in the newly fallen snow, he walked the entire afternoon even though we had his sleigh. It was a little on the nippy side but many of the local retailers had crafts to make providing great “warm up” opportunities. Matt made a bead key chain, a bracelet, Christmas ornaments and a button – and we didn’t even hit all the stores. Predictably though, the highlight of the day for Matt the horse-drawn wagon ride through the hamlet with Santa! While waiting for the “sleigh” to arrive, Santa mingled with the children, posing for photos and giving out treats. There were also reindeer to visit and activities at the community centre. After a couple hours we drove a tired little boy home, who due to fresh air and exercise was more than happy to snuggle down for a short nap, making for a happy evening at home. The festival runs the next two Saturdays (December 10th & 17th).

At the end of the weekend, I asked Matt if he had fun – the smile on his face said it all, I didn’t need the “Santa horsy ride” that confirmed  it. We had chosen well – though tired, we were happy and relaxed. Here’s to many more days that are filled with smiles – sled rides, skating, Christmas parties, finding a tree, light displays and the requisite visit with Santa are on the list for the coming weeks.