It’s the time between finishing your kids’ leftover Halloween candy and stores getting decked out in their Christmas regalia, no matter that the holidays are still two months away. Pity the poor folks working in retail forced to listen to non-stop Christmas songs all this time. By mid-December many sales people are ready to throttle customers flushed with seasonal sentiment, “I love this time of year… all the Christmas music and decorations. It’s so festive.” Um, shall I wrap this sweater or just strangle you with it?
Ah yes, the holiday spirit. Now I like the festive season as much as the next person with all the parties and gatherings but for me, November is a tweener month for another reason: It’s still too warm for outdoor rinks to make ice – at least in the GTA. We generally have to wait until December for the Zambonis to roll.
Once the ice is in, the familiar sounds of shinny fill the crisp air. That’s when winter and the holiday season officially kick in for me. There’s something so absolutely special and Canadian (though I’m sure it’s similar in other northern countries) that we’re able to glide across frozen water outdoors for several months of the year. I don’t understand why more people don’t take advantage, preferring instead to huddle indoors and curse the winter until the first tulip blooms. Their loss.
I guess it goes back to being a kid. I remember growing up in the High Park area of Toronto where we were able to skate on natural ice around the first week of December. The local municipality installed rinks in parks with boards that looked like they were made in a wood-working shop. Along with the bigger artificial rinks, we had options galore. I’ve got many happy memories from those times. It was at these rinks where you could “play” at hockey, get in a game of shinny and see and learn things that you wouldn’t in a formal league.
But the city’s natural ice rinks are long gone. Global warming and tight budgets took care of that. I feel lucky growing up at time when I could enjoy them because the experiences brought me closer to the game at its most basic: Ice, snow, skating, movement, skill and of course, the thing that made it all possible – the cold.
It’s why every December when neighbourhood rinks come alive with skaters and hockey players, the holiday spirit has arrived.
Anyone up for a Christmas skate?
Do you ever go for a skate during the holidays? Maybe you have a tradition with family and friends. Tell us about it or send photos and we’ll publish them on mhl.