Christmas Blessings giving thanks for simple gifts 

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"The gratification of wealth is not found in mere possession or in lavish expenditure, but in its wise application." – Miguel de Cervantes

I never really thought about it when I was young, you know, but the fact that Christmas happens to be celebrated in wintertime, well, that played a huge role in the development of my snow-sliding obsession. That my own mid-December birthday often coincided with the season's first snowstorm and the opening of our rock-strewn, creek-crossed, log-dumped excuse for a ski hill, hmm, well I just assumed everyone got it. I figured that the Holiday Season was mainstream society's wink and nod to the skiing community.

Really. Think about it. Why else would you schedule a two-week break from school in the depth of winter, during the shortest, meanest, hardest days of the year? To my pre-adolescent mind it made all the sense in the world. Besides, why have all this winter gift giving if not to feed one's snowsliding needs? To me it was obvious: Christmas and skiing were made for each other. And my birthday just happened to be the gateway to this wonderful winter gala. Can you blame me for thinking it was all arranged for my benefit?

I mean, there was never any doubt about birthday/Christmas gifts in my family. Whether it was the spine-tingling, toe-curling, sweat-inducing big-ticket items like skis or boots or bindings, or the annual, yawn... toques, goggles and gloves (or jackets, pants, sweater, underwear etc), my parents made sure that Le Père Noel knew all about their four boys' mountain needs. And no — there was no access to any of the new gear before The Day. Until then, you made do.

Really. I remember as a young teenager, skrimpering down the slopes of Mt. Ste Anne in early December, "roo-hopping" from snow patch to snow patch — fighting to maintain any sense of control over my beaten-up wooden oldies — while losing all sorts of peer points with my hard-charging contemporaries. Meanwhile, my very first pair of new race skis, the magical Rossi Stratos, was waiting for me under the family Christmas tree. And no amount of lobbying had swayed my father. I had made promises. Threats. Entreaties. Stamped my foot. Pouted. Whined even. But he'd stayed firm. He wasn't putting bindings on those babies until Christmas had passed.

Didn't matter that I'd paid for half of them myself with a summer's worth of lawn mowing. Or that my buddy Jean was already skiing on his new Stratos (he was the other half of our lawn-mowing team, but his dad was more liberal). My father hadn't budged.

I realize now it probably had more to do with early-season conditions and teenage boys' lack of foresight, and less to do with staying true to rituals and celebrations. Whatever. It certainly taught me a lot about delayed gratification.

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