Quite by accident, I found myself in Vancouver over the holidays this year. I can’t say it was what I had planned for this Christmas, the how & why is a story for another day but I know for some people a trip to this great city during the holiday season would be a treat so I decided that’s how I’d view the situation. This is my first time in Vancouver in the winter, and what a winter it is! Incredible amounts of snowfall lead to wintry white festive days with crisp clear starry skies at night.
When I come to Vancouver I stay in a lovely collective house in the historic Strathcona neighbourhood. Previously I’ve walked east from there to spend most of my time on ‘the Drive‘. The rad counter-cultural community that has grown along Commercial Drive reminds me of a larger street-side Kensington Market, and has felt like home since the moment I stepped foot off the #20 bus for VSfestival 2014. This time, I’ve been spending more time downtown mostly in Chinatown and Gastown.
Daily, I’ve been at Karma Teachers yoga collective in the downtown eastside, where there truly is a Karma Revolution happening! This is hands down the most welcoming, loving and genuinely special yoga space I have ever been in and one of the most incredible communities I’ve ever encountered. I set myself a holiday wellness goal to do yoga every day for a week and cut sugar out of my diet! I succeeded at the yoga, and almost with the sugar (but I ate a piece of candycane bark on Christmas, eep!) which were both significant accomplishments for me.
One of my favourite Christmas traditions is decorating a Christmas Tree but unfortunately this time I had to leave my kitschy family ornaments packed for another year. Missing my tree I decided to check out Christmas at Canada Place put on by the Port of Vancouver which features an Avenue of Trees! among other festive family activities and seasonal displays such as the Woodward’s Windows. Families, tourists, travelers of all ages who find themselves in Vancouver over a Christmas season would certainly enjoy this FREE annual event.
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day I attended services at Christ Church Cathedral. It always seems to surprise people that I’m a spiritual person with a religious practice but it is a deeply ingrained part of my culture, my family history and my upbringing. (see the end of this post for a note on my spiritual and religious journey) Christmas in the Cathedral was absolutely beautiful. With resonant carols and warm candlelight, Bishop Melissa Skelton’s sermon was very relevant – touching on the recently trendy topic of Hygge (Danish coziness) but also reminding us that the Christmas Story is set in a polarized political climate similar to what we see happening around the world today.
I had a number of Christmas Dinner invites to friends’ parents houses, which I truly appreciate, but I wasn’t really in the right frame of mind and I didn’t want to get stuck in the suburbs overnight. I remember once a friend telling me he had spent Christmas in a bar and I thought that sounded so sad and depressing, yet what did I decide to do with my evening? … Shrimp tacos and beers at The Dime on the Drive! and y’know what? I had a great time! Whoever was feeding the jukebox had excellent taste, everything on the menu is $5, my server Tiff was really great … what more could you ask for?
All in all I’d say Vancouver is a pretty great place to get away for the Christmas holidays!
a note on my spiritual and religious journey:
I was raised in the Anglican Church but left for over a decade because my so much of my personal identity and ideology felt conflicted with church teachings at the time. I started attending again this summer after the groundbreaking vote to include same-sex marriage in the marriage canon, but found much more of the church had changed. This is a church that now supports Indigenous Justice and is actively working towards reconciliation, with changes to the wording of services that reflect West Coast heritage. This is a church that makes space for queer folks to worship, that actively feeds the hungry and supports affordable housing, refugee resettlement and access to safe drinking water. The Christmas Eve service began with a formal welcome to the territory of the Musqueam First Nation by Audrey Siegl. Audrey spoke about the history of the specific site, about sacred spaces, about reconciliation before performing a song that Chief Dan George gave to the Coast Salish Peoples. The services were lead by Melissa Skelton one of the still small handful of women to be ordained as bishop – these are important role models to myself and friends who attended an all-girls Anglican School. I had never stopped being spiritual, but with these changes and the knowledge that it is a dynamic and ongoing process, I now feel comfortable participating in the Anglican Church again.