Searching for the Elusive Christmas Spirit


 Delta High Grads of ‘56

 Ghosts of Christmas Past <– Please click to download video

It seems I and most of us are about to experience our 76th Christmas celebration. As pleased as I am to find myself so blessed, I am having trouble getting into the Christmas spirit as I did in earlier years. The first twenty or so Christmases I spent in Ladner with father George and mother Margaret,  sisters Helen and Sylvia and many relatives and school friends. Looking back they were the happiest days of my life. So it was a good idea to review those Christmases past to perhaps find the spirit of Christmas I used to know. Remembering the tenderness of Christmas past awakens awareness of Christmas present and in turn becomes part of our Christmas future. 

We all remember those who are no longer with us as their memory emerges so clearly at Christmas and creates a force to love them today as we did yesterday. Although just my first twenty years were spent in Ladner, the people and the place is home to me and “we all come home for Christmas.” I discovered dozens of unique and happy memories delving back into those years. I’ve picked a few that stuck in my memory clearly and which I will try to recall briefly now.

 The last Japanese oranges in Ladner 1941

 My Dad George North was the manager of the Ladner Overwaitea store. The first week of December 1941 he received his annual shipment of Japanese tangerine oranges for the Christmas season. Then December 7th “the day of Infamy”  Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and we were at war with Japan. From that day no one in Ladner ever bought another Japanese orange until after the war and the boxes of oranges stacked to the warehouse roof began to rot.

 My Dad being a frugal man brought boxes of the decaying fruit home to his  family and mother Margaret stuffed them in our Christmas stockings, made pies and we ate what was left of the rotting oranges from morning to night. To this day I am not fond of Japanese oranges.

 Ladner  United Church Sunday school Christmas play.

Decked out in mother’s tea towels on our heads and bathrobes we portrayed  shepherds of Bethlehem. The lucky ones got to be angels. Doug Husband was strangely cast as “Elf”. Judy Allen was the woman who lived in a shoe (not sure what she had to do with Christmas) and Shirley Savage was a moon person. In the photo here I am apparently Santa Claus (although not sure what he had to do with the miracle birth in Bethlehem).

 RON WATT’S “the real Santa Claus”

On Christmas Eve,  ’55 our young peoples group of the United Church distributed gift hampers to needy families in Delta. At one home there was no answer to a knock on  the door, so several of us with Ron  dressed as Santa Claus entered to place gifts around the Christmas tree. Two children with wide eyes watched from the staircase, but  not a word was exchanged. Somewhere today there are two people around fifty years old  who still swear there is a Santa Claus because they saw him Christmas Eve 1955 putting  presents under their family tree.


Few works of literature or drama have ever approached “ A Christmas Carol” in expressing the true spirit of Christmas as Charles Dicken’s book and play. To be a cast member of this play in amateur or professional theatre has always produced a clear understanding of Dicken’s  characters and  the true spirit of Christmas.

Teacher Victor Mitchell was director and I was cast as Scrooge and it influences me to this day for the better I hope.


In the year 2000 I was based in Saudi Arabia and took my family,  Deanna and Glen to visit Bethlehem that Christmas. We found a beautiful “crèche” carved from Olive trees that were living at the time of Jesus and sent it to the Ladner United Church to be displayed at Christmas. We arranged for a small silver plaque engraved with the words:

“To the memory of George and Margaret North….”they knew how to keep Christmas well. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so as Tiny Tim observed, God bless us every one.”  — Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

 If anyone is in the Ladner area at Christmas perhaps you could drop by the United Church and see if the nativity is still displayed.

 Old photos and old memories ignite the Christmas spirit again year after year with  tenderness for the past, courage for the present and hope for the future. Once again thousands of families are homeless in the Middle East and seeking refuge as they did in Christ’s time. This time let’s make room for them and trust every path we take will lead to Peace.

 As always welcome the Christmas spirit and hope it can be sustained through 2016  and eternity.

 Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

 Don, Deanna and Glen North