VanDusen Botanical Gardens’ Festival of Lights was cancelled this year due to COVID-19. (VanDusen Botanical Gardens/Facebook)

VanDusen Botanical Gardens’ Festival of Lights was cancelled this year due to COVID-19. (VanDusen Botanical Gardens/Facebook)

Column: Lasting Christmas memories comprised of colour and light

In Plain View by Lachlan Labere

Brief moments of colourful lights and a sensation I can only describe as “awe.”

These are what remain in my RAM (rapidly aging memory) of specific childhood Christmas-related memories.

One involved an evening family drive from our East Vancouver home to the downtown. I vaguely recall the elaborately decorated windows of the Woodward’s department store building, and Santa in his sleigh, being pulled by reindeer around what I think was the Eaton’s building. Even from the backseat window, the sights were magical.

Another outing involved a visit to VanDusen Gardens. “Otherworldly” is a word that comes to mind when I think back to the first time we strolled through the garden after dusk, surrounded by the colourful brilliance of so many Christmas lights. At the end of our walk we shared a bag of roasted chestnuts which I recall being delicious.

I remember with greater clarity the more common family traditions, from the Christmas Eve visits with grandma when we’d all open one gift, to the Christmas dinners when the family, including grandparents and uncle, would be seated tightly together around the table. About half the table space was dedicated to the feast prepared by my mom, who also looked after our own in-house Christmas display (including – because it was Vancouver – fake snow on the living room windows).

Several years ago I had a chance to visit VanDusen again just before Christmas, this time with my wife and son, along with my brother and his family and our mom. The display was amazing, and I suspect it was an experience that will stay with my son. At least as a moment of light and happiness.

Read more: Shuswap couple mapping Holiday Twinkle Trail to view Christmas lights

Read more: Festive contest encourages Salmon Arm to light up the night

With the lack of snow so far this December, this would have been a good year to return to Vancouver for a Christmas visit. But with COVID-19 and all the related concerns and restrictions, that won’t be happening. Instead, like so many others, we’ll be chatting over the telephone and the computer. That’s not unusual for us and, as far a 2020 goes, it’s pretty much par for the course.

That doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy our own family Christmas experiences here in the Shuswap, even if they require some modification to stay safe and healthy. It could be an evening drive to check out Christmas lights, using one of the maps available of displays in the area. It could be a cross-country ski outing, and warming up in the car afterward with a thermos of hot chocolate. I don’t know. Whatever works for you. Just bear in mind, it’s often the simple, shared experiences that make the most lasting memories.

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