The name of the store is “Tinseltown Christmas Emporium” and it’s located the far end of Hintonburg, just east of the intersection where Somerset Street West meets Wellington Street. Several two-metre tall wooden nutcracker soldiers stand guard in front of the deep red storefront. The display windows are so crammed with trinkets and ornaments that you can barely see inside but it looks like if you push the door, a pile of winter icons, Santa Claus, bells, candles, candy canes, garland, stockings, wreaths, snow globes, and angels will fall on you. It reminds me of a small-town bazaar, as described by Stephen King in his novels. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these Christmas characters came alive at nighttime.

Walking by this year-round Christmas store is a strange experience when it’s definitely not the holiday season. You can’t help but slow down and find the strong Christmas scent—a mix of cinnamon, orange, nutmeg, cloves and vanilla—slightly eerie. “Oh right… it’s that store,” I remind myself when I suddenly smell Christmas in the middle of August.

So many questions come to mind every time I walk by, on my way to Chinatown. Who wakes up one morning and decides to focus all business activities on December 24 and 25? How does this highly seasonal store stay open when dozens of billion-dollar companies, including Target, declare bankruptcy? Rent isn’t cheap in this slightly hip neighborhood; how many candy canes do you need to sell to cover it?

But now, I think I get it. It stays in business thanks to Christmas nuts.

Among the people who celebrate Christmas, religiously or secularly, there are two teams. Team one starts dreaming of Christmas as soon as the weather gets cooler, checks the weather channel compulsively to see if a white Christmas is on the way and starts shopping before fall even starts. Team two is more “the only thing I want for Christmas is not hearing about Christmas before December.” I’m on this team. I sigh when Halloween monsters are replaced by jolly Santa on October 31 and I’d be happier if stores played The Tragically Hip rather than Christmas Classics performed by big names who were probably paid a hefty sum to sing about Rudolph.

The “Christmas creep” phenomenon is getting ridiculous in North America. Technically, Black Friday is often the official start of the holiday shopping season. But “the holidays” start earlier and earlier every year. I get it, November isn’t a fun month—the weather sucks and we celebrate dead people or soldiers fallen on the battlefield. But do we really need Christmas two months before D-Day?

As the designed Westerner™ of the family, it’s my job to work on Christmas traditions for Mark. This year, I decided on the traditional Advent Calendar and a letter to Santa.

On December 1, I was finally ready to acknowledge Christmas.

I’ve been teaching Mark reading and writing 101 (he can “read” a few words, and write a little bit) and he is very proud of his skills. So am I… after all, he just turned four. So this year, the letter to Santa was his job.

Hi, Santa
Hi, Santa
This is Mark...
This is Mark…
Writing the letter
Writing the letter
I am a big boy
I am a big boy
Focused
Focused
Adding a few stickers
Adding a few stickers
Adding a few stickers
Adding a few stickers
Focused
Focused
Merci!
Merci!
Last touch: drawing of a monster
Last touch: drawing of a monster
The letter
The letter
The letter
The letter
The letter
The letter
Where I tell Mark to go under the bed (and he really doesn't understand why)
Where I tell Mark to go under the bed (and he really doesn’t understand why)
Oh yes, he just got it
Oh yes, he just got it
Advent calendar!
Advent calendar!
Looking for December 1
Looking for December 1
Found it!
Found it!
 

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23 Comments

  1. Frenchie au Canada December 5, 2016 at 11:55 am

    He is so adorable all focused on his letter to Santa! And I love the purple transformer, good luck finding that one lol
    I am firmly in the no Christmas until Dec 1st camp. I still need to get us advent calendars! I dreamt of having one as a kid (not allowed chocolate, so no calendar) so no I get one every year. And my Scotsman is a big child at heart so he loves his too 😉

    Reply
    1. Zhu December 5, 2016 at 11:10 pm

      You totally deserve that calendar. One each, even, so that you don’t have to share!

      Which one do you have in mind?

      Reply
      1. Frenchie au Canada December 6, 2016 at 4:34 pm

        Of course 1 each lol I’m not sharing! haha It’s hard finding a good one here (and I don’t want to spend $10 on it…) possibly kinder or Lindt I think

        Reply
        1. Zhu December 6, 2016 at 6:40 pm

          I think they are both around $10… maybe a bit cheaper since December started. Next year, we should do a calendar swap!

          Reply
          1. Frenchie au Canada December 8, 2016 at 11:00 am

            Miam, great idea 😉 I keep forgetting and can’t find one at the local supermarket. I’m worried I might be too late :O

          2. Zhu December 8, 2016 at 7:04 pm

            I’m positive you will find one. They are still around in Ottawa!

  2. Bee Ean December 5, 2016 at 4:52 pm

    I’m not the designed westerner but why am I getting all the task to buy people Christmas gifts? All 12 of them. My daughters are not supposed to be there when I buy gifts but they are always with me when I’m off work. This is the task I hate but I have to do, while lying to my daughters. I hope they get passed the phase soon. I don’t know why we are giving credits to Santa who doesn’t do anything, then thanking the grandparents and grandmothers who spoil them with hand knitted clothes and presents. If you considering all the money spent just for Christmas, and all the necessary things we get at the end (can’t throw and just clustering the house). The only I like about Christmas is the family gatherings.

    Reply
    1. Zhu December 5, 2016 at 11:11 pm

      Okay, this is not fair… unless your husband is in charge of Chinese New Year celebrations! 😆

      Kind of a silly question, but did you celebrate Christmas as a kid? I assume you didn’t, but you never know, in this globalized world…

      Reply
      1. Bee Ean December 7, 2016 at 4:47 am

        No never celebrated it as a kid.

        Reply
        1. Zhu December 7, 2016 at 6:47 pm

          Makes sense! I think Christmas is somehow a bit popular in Japan and Singapore, but I may be wrong. Was it weird for you to celebrate Christmas in France the first few years?

          Reply
      2. Bee Ean December 7, 2016 at 4:17 pm

        No, never as a kid. Christmas is just a public holiday for me.

        Reply
  3. kiky December 5, 2016 at 10:19 pm

    Mark’s handwriting is better than mine! and how old is he? 4?

    Reply
    1. Zhu December 6, 2016 at 12:00 am

      Yes, just turned four a month ago.

      Yes, I’m glowing with mother pride 😉

      Reply
  4. Jeruen December 6, 2016 at 1:08 am

    The destination address made me wonder, which then made me do a Google search, hence I learned that Canada post has a Santa Letter Service!?! That’s awesome!

    Reply
    1. Zhu December 6, 2016 at 2:31 pm

      Yep they do! They welcome letters from all over the world too. And Santa replies… at least, he did last year. The postal code always makes me laugh 🙂

      Reply
  5. Lynn December 7, 2016 at 8:18 am

    This post was the cutest thing EVER. I just adore the way he worked so hard on his letter. Those shots of his concentrating face – pure magic. It’s funny, we are all about the traditions here but writing letters to Santa is the one thing we never did do. Thanks for sharing yours!

    Reply
    1. Zhu December 7, 2016 at 6:48 pm

      The Santa Letter Writing Program is amazing. I used to work at Canada, that’s how I learned about it. It works very well with younger kids… although maybe you should give it a shot next years, just for fun. You get a reply too!

      Reply
  6. Lexie December 7, 2016 at 11:46 am

    Writing and reading at 4? Il est fort ce petit 🙂 L’an dernier j’ai peint une maison en bois avec des petites cases et j’ai mis des babioles dedans, à chaque fois B. me demandait où était le chocolat. Cette année j’ai mis des chocolats dans chacune et elles sont extatiques…

    Reply
    1. Zhu December 7, 2016 at 6:51 pm

      J’admire les parents qui fabriquent les calendriers! J’essaierai peut-être de m’y mettre aussi, j’aime bien l’idée de créer un objet.

      Il commence juste pour la lecture et l’écriture… mais, pour le moment, il est très demandeur, alors j’en profite!

      Reply
      1. Lexie December 8, 2016 at 9:25 am

        J’ai juste peint à la bombe une maison en bois trouvée chez Omer Deserres, collé des numéros et ajoutés qq trucs dessus 🙂

        Reply
        1. Zhu December 8, 2016 at 7:03 pm

          Ben ça compte comme un projet artistique, hein! 🙂

          Reply
  7. I Say Oui December 13, 2016 at 10:20 pm

    I’m tempted to join Twitter just to read your tweets!

    Also, that’s so funny that you hid the Advent calendar under the bed. Sneaky elf.

    Reply
    1. Zhu December 13, 2016 at 10:37 pm

      Twitter is fun! I actually signed up years ago (like… 7 years ago?) because I had to translate Tweet for a job and I needed to check the length of them. Do you have to subscribe to read Tweets? I don’t think so. Here is mine: https://twitter.com/Xiaozhuli

      Reply

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