Other Holiday Traditions

Years ago, when I first started celebrating Christmas with the Carver family, toward the end our turkey dinner my father-in-law Humphrey would begin a round of toasts. Each person at the table would in turn propose a toast to someone not at the table with us. Because the Carvers had extended family all over the world, the toasts were often considered “around the world” toasts.

My husband now continues the tradition but with his own variations. Sometimes we are all asked to propose a toast to someone (someone we wish could be at the table with us, for example, or someone we’ve never met whom we’d like to have at the table). Sometimes we are also presented with a though-provoking question to answer.

This year his around-the-table question was “What was a transformative moment for you this past year?” And we were asked to propose a toast to “someone who was important / has made a difference to you this year”.

All other conversation stops at this point in the meal (usually over dessert) as each person, young and old, is given the floor. The results are always interesting, sometimes hilarious, and often moving.

Of course, with Christmas behind us, and newspapers filled with lists and reflections on the past decade, many of us are looking ahead to the new year and a new decade. Peter and I will see in 2010 as we have a number of new years now – at a friends’ cottage on Georgian Bay. Our hosts assign all the invited guests a course to prepare on site – appetizers, soup, fish, salad, main, dessert. These preparations go on through the day. Appetizers are served around 6:30 and it’s often midnight when we’re having dessert. There is much conversation and dancing between courses, and if we’re lucky, a lovely moonlit walk in newfallen snow. It’s a lovely way to end a year and to begin a new one.

Whatever your traditions, I wish you peace, joy, and good friendships in the coming year.

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Kathy Stinson is the author of the classic Red Is Best and the award-winning The Man with the Violin. Her wide range of titles includes picture books, non-fiction, young adult fiction, historical fiction, horror, biography, series books, and short stories. She has met with her readers in every province and territory of Canada, in the United States, Britain, Liberia, and Korea. She lives in a small town in Ontario.

Kathy Stinson


  1. zoom on December 30, 2009 at 7:03 am

    Your traditions are so inspired…I might adopt them.

    I generally spend New Year's Eve reflecting on the past year and the balance of my life as a whole. And then I figure out which area of my life needs a little extra time and attention in the coming year. I don't make resolutions exactly, but I do a little annual re-balancing. Some years I focus more on creativity, or health, or social connections…sometimes something else. (This approach, incidentally, seems to have more staying power than the more traditional resolutions.)

    I'm departing from tradition this year, and will be spending New Year's Eve breaking up with my mother.

  2. Janet Barclay on December 31, 2009 at 2:04 am

    I've been trying since yesterday to think of how I might have answered those questions, had I been seated at that table, and I still haven't figured it out! That is not to say there was no transformative moment or that no one made a difference to me during the year, but it has made me realize how many significant things just happen without being noticed particularly. As I develop new routines in 2010, I would like to make time to reflect and journal on such things, if not daily, at least a couple of times a week.

  3. Kathy Stinson on January 3, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    Here's to wishing us all well in finding the balance we need and the time for the things that matter to us.

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