Friends, family, and festivities are front and center at this time of the year. So we asked some of our staff to share their holiday memories, stories, and greetings with you. Here’s what a few of them had to say.
The holiday season was upon us when I learned that urgent bowel surgery was needed – a result of my Crohn’s disease. I was 18 years old, a little scared but mostly disappointed. I loved Christmas, the stockings hung up, the presents under the tree, a big turkey dinner with family. Surgery was scheduled for December 19th, which meant that I’d have to miss it all while I recovered in the hospital.
Looking back, it turned out to be a pretty special Christmas after all. My surgery was successful, giving me hope for better health than I’d been having. My IV line came out on Christmas morning and I was able to eat for the first time in weeks – even if it was just Jello and turkey broth! A sweater hand-knit by my mom kept me warm in hospital, and the love in every stitch still warms me to this day. But what I’ll always picture when I think of that Christmas is my family spending the day with me, playing board games, sharing stories, laughing and just being grateful to be all together!
Development Coordinator, Eastern Ontario
We celebrate a holiday tradition called The Yule Lads in our house. For the 13 days before Christmas, Icelandic children put their shoes in the window in order to get gifts from the Yule Lads – the 13 sons of Gryla, a horrible troll. The 13 sons visit children each in turn to leave a candy or small present if the child is good or leave a rotting potato in the shoe if the child has been bad.
This tradition has been alive since the 12th
century, and the Yule Lads have changed from being terrifying creatures to today being mischievous trolls who leave good kids little treats. Icelandic children also have to make sure that they get clothes for Christmas or they will get eaten by the Christmas Cat who prowls around on Christmas Eve, on the lookout for anyone not wearing new clothes.
My children have long enjoyed this tradition from their father’s country and look forward every year to the beginning of the season where they can get presents and sweets in before their friends. My kids also have a great time sharing this tradition with their friends who love the mix of gifts and fear!
Development Coordinator, Quebec
In my family, the holiday season is a time of reflection with the passing of all our grandparents (three in recent years) and our dog, Rolo, who spread his wings this September. Although this time of year can be tough, being together reminds us how important family is. We often have huge celebrations with lots of laughter, food, gifts and love. We’ve learned to cherish our past memories with those we’ve lost but also to be open to creating new ones. And what better way to celebrate the holidays than with a new family member, Toby!
Development Coordinator, Manitoba
A holiday memory I look forward to every year is watching It's a Wonderful Life with my family on Christmas Eve. It is a tradition that started long before my sister and I understood the message of the movie, but as we grew older the story began to, and still continues to, have a deeper meaning for us. We will always go back home on Christmas Eve to watch this movie, and without fail my dad will share the same 'trivia' about the making of the film. Every year he tells us, “Did you know the scene where Uncle Billy walks off the screen and you hear a loud crash, and George Bailey laughs, wasn't intended? Uncle Billy walked into part of the set and knocked it over.”
Development Coordinator, Southwest Ontario
My family is missing one very special person who we lost too early in life. The first Holiday season we had without him we decided to make it a little easier to bear by packing up and going to Jamaica. We were all new to traveling so for us this was stepping out of our comfort zone to go on a little adventure. It was very different celebrating Christmas on the beach while Santa arrived on a boat to greet all the excited children. We missed out on the Christmas traditions, but the season is about family and we were together. Going to Jamaica started a new tradition in my family of no Christmas traditions, but each year we reflect on our loving memories of those who are no longer with us and a deep appreciation for those who are.
Manager, Research Programs
What I look forward to during the holidays are family, a (hopefully) white Christmas, warming up with a hot cup of cocoa or mulled wine after a brisk outdoor activity, and getting the chance to read a couple of good novels. And I hope everyone has a chance to enjoy the holidays through whatever brings them happiness.
Vice President, Research and Patient Programs
All I can think of is this photo. I think it might have been taken during the holiday season. I have no idea who the guy in red is.
Regional Director, Quebec and Atlantic Provinces
When my sister and I were younger, one of our fondest memories of Christmas was my mother and father writing “From: Santa” on all of our gifts. Even gifts which we knew were from them or instances where we actually found them wrapping it, they still would maintain that it was “From: Santa”. To this day, my wife and I still leave Christmas dinner with large amounts of leftovers marked “From: Santa”. Although we didn’t realize it back then, over time it has really taught us to appreciate the spirt of Christmas and to immerse ourselves in it as it brings joy to so many, both young and old.
Manager, Innovative Health Initiatives
It’s normal to feel a full range of emotions during the holidays – from gratitude and love, to stress and sadness. While there’s a lot of pressure to create Instagram-worthy memories, it’s okay if things don’t go as planned. Savour the good, but know that if you’re having a tough time, that’s okay too.
Research Grants and Evaluation Specialist
I was born on the beautiful Island of Sri Lanka during a time when the country was heavily affected by the civil war between Tamil and Singhalese people. When I was eight we had to leave our home and escape to other cities to save our lives. I had to change schools ten times. The running ended when we came to Canada. For me, the happiest thing about the holiday season is thinking about how the only time people in Sri Lanka forget about all the fighting and share food with each other is during the time of Christmas and New Year’s. For New Year’s, everyone buys new clothing that they wear to their place of worship. The Holiday season brings people together in Sri Lanka, for me this was a time where my late father could come visit us and he would bring lots of gifts. In Canada the holiday season is different but my family loves the spirit of Christmas with all the celebrations and decorations. We get together, share gifts and follow many of the Canadian traditions.
The holidays remind me of the spectacularly kind and generous people in my life: my fiancé, friends, colleagues, and all the volunteers I’m privileged to work alongside.
From everyone at Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, all the best for the holidays, and have a happy and healthy New Year!