I have been less than embracing of Christmas in this space in past years. I went so far, in a Slow Lane published on December 11, 2008, a full 10 years ago, to suggest that due to commercialization and over-consumption, Christmas should in effect be punished and henceforth, like the Olympics, be celebrated “but once every four years.”
That column went on to suggest that akin to the Olympics it become a competition and take place only in a host country. “Every other county,” I shamefully wrote. “would send teams of their best Christmas celebrants – my wife would surely be a candidate – to compete against one another in holiday-related events (e.g. who could give the most gifts to distant relatives they no longer saw during the course of the year.)
“The rest of us could simply stay home and watch Christmas on television.”
Bah! Humbug! I have since become aware that this was Scrooge-ism at its worst. One of the things that has convinced me to eschew that miserable and ungenerous attitude and become not just a celebrant but an embracer of Christmas is our novel and warm community. At this time of year there are a host of wonderful local events which worked to show me the light.
Case in point, last Tuesday was the Bowen Island Community Lunch at the Legion, which for one day, morphed into the Christmas lunch. The Lunch has been an island fixture for three years and takes place every second and fourth Tuesday of the month, from September through June, open to any adults. It’s an event that doesn’t get much recognition but is loaded with warmth, good conversation and excellent food.
And there wasn’t a Scrooge among us.
This final lunch of the 2018 and was a sold-out affair, by my count some 50 plus humans. I sat with Suzanne McNeil, James Godfrey, Joyce Slade (she’s been here since 1973) and her son, Keith (who remarked that back in 1973 if you were new and lasted a winter on Bowen, you were already considered an islander.)
The event is a great affair for re-connecting with friends and to socialize with those you’ve never met, including those you have frequently seen about Bowen but never actually spoken to. On Tuesday for me that included meeting a second Bob Miller for the first time, this one not the Bob Miller of Sandy Miller fame, but Bob Miller who is grandfather to the amusing Clayton Miller and Wyatt the Riot Miller. Other new acquaintances included Brian and Betsy, and Marty.
Karen Nicholls-Pennington was among the many I knew, as was Raia’s mother, Cheryl Landry. Bowen’s venerable piano-man Marc Gawthrop played. A gaggle of muni staff came down and were gracious enough to allow me to take their photo.
A nice touch was the Christmas card at each of our places, every one made and signed by a child from the 16th Bowen Island Scouting Group. I got one signed by Henry and though only eight he did a fine job of it, as did Ryuki in signing Suzanne’s card (I peeked) while James’ card was excellently signed by Adam.
By way of history, the Community Lunch was the brain child of the late Elizabeth Storrey and I am sure I wasn’t the only one who thought of her before digging in. It started at Bowen Court but quickly proved popular and a larger venue was needed. Colleen O’Neil of the Caring Circle, one of our island’s hardest-working and most treasured volunteers, got to work, with others, seeking a larger space. She lauded the generosity of the Legion, which, free of charge, offered itself to the event.
Here’s this to keep in mind about the lunch: you don’t gotta be a senior, a 20-something, a golfer, a sewer, a scaler of Mount Gardner, a Canuck fan, a fastpitch player, a worker at BIRD or anything but a human (okay, one who is 18 or over) to go along. Indeed, you don’t have to even have a need for a nutritious and inexpensive meal, you can be rich and go to the community lunch. You just gotta be someone who wants to hang out and socialize while eating and then walk away without doing any dishes.
The lunch is also supported by Snug Cove House, SKY (Seniors Keeping Young) and the Little Red Church. Volunteers abound, including the talented chef Kathy Gagne, young wunderkind Wilde Marsh, Ellen McMahon, Cilla Kotz, Lynn Williams, Susan Proctor and Joan Henley.
The legion was wonderfully decorated for the holidays and rife with Christmas spirit, enough to make anyone who would espouse nonsense about Christmas on television etc. feel chastised. The Lunch is on hiatus for the holiday season now and, as advertised on its Facebook page, the next gathering for a meal and socialization is on Tuesday, January 8, 2019.
Have a nice Christmas and lunch – every year.